Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا


CODESRIA 2018 Democratic Governance Institute: Governing Africa’s Social Policy: Subverting Development and Democracy?

Date: 18th-29th June 2018
Venue: Arusha, Tanzania.
Application Deadline: 30 April 2018

Number of visits: 4499

Call for Laureates

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is pleased to announce the call for submission of proposals from academics and researchers in African universities and Research Centres for the 2018 session of its annual Democratic Governance Institute. The 2018 Institute is being organised in partnership with the South African Research Chair in Social Policy. The Institute will be held in Arusha, Tanzania on the theme “Governing Africa’s Social Policy: Subverting Development and Democracy?”. The Democratic Governance Institute, launched in 1992 by CODESRIA, is an annual interdisciplinary forum which brings together about fifteen researchers from various parts of the continent and the Diaspora, as well as some non-African scholars who are undertaking innovative research on topics related to the general theme of governance.

Organization of the Institute

A scientific director who is a senior academic in the relevant discipline, with the support of selected resource persons, provide intellectual leadership and guide the laureates of the Institute to conduct an in-depth engagement with issues revolving around the selected theme. The director and resource persons read and select laureates to the Institute based on the quality of proposals they submit; ensure that the laureates are exposed to a wide range of theoretical, methodological and policy issues related to the theme and assist the laureates develop their work to publishable standards. Each laureate is required to prepare a research paper to be presented during the session. The revised versions of such papers will be peer-reviewed for publication by CODESRIA or any other publisher partnering with the Council. The CODESRIA Documentation and Information Centre (CODICE) will provide participants with a comprehensive bibliography on the theme of the Institute. English and French languages are used for communication during the Institute through simultaneous translation.

Theme of the 2018 Institute

The paradox of liberal democracy in much of Africa since the 1990s has been, on the one hand, the narrowing of the policy space in development and modes of securing the wellbeing of citizens, and on the other hand, the stabilization of electoral modes of governance. If the mass protests that in many countries saw the end of authoritarian single-party state and military rule were triggered by the mass entitlement failures imposed by the orthodox stabilizations policies of the 1980s, the electoral polity that emerged in the aftermath has not ensured the flourishing of wellbeing, significant reduction in poverty, reduced wealth inequality, and employment. Much of this is linked to the politics of neoliberal orthodoxy which locked out many policy instruments necessary for enhanced human wellbeing. The ‘good policies’ that are locked in are those that are framed by market-centric logic. The space for wellbeing enhancing policy instruments are further constrained by restraints and blockages imposed by extra-territorial forces, not the least in forms of ‘donor’ conditionalities.

If in the early phases of liberal democracy in Africa, the challenge was one of absence of policy choices (alternative to neoliberal orthodoxy)—what Mkandawire refers to as “choiceless democracy”—the challenge in the 21st century is the hegemony of market transactional logic and aversion for encompassing public provisioning among most African public authorities. The gap between choice over which politicians rule your state and which economic policy prevails is reflected in the dissonance between ‘constitutionalism’ and ‘popular sovereignty’; a gap between democracy as formal equality as distinct from substantive equality. The dominance of the conception and articulation of democracy, as ‘universal suffrage, regular elections and basic civil rights’ (Rudebeck), is held separate from ‘equality in actual practice’ in which popular pressure secures socio-economic rights and human flourishing. Also, there has been a shift in the mode of politics for the framing of popular sovereignty—a shift from organised, membership-based social movements, as mediating institutions between the civil society and the state, to non-membership based non-governmental organisations and middle-class driven advocacy organisations.

The significant reduction in poverty and employment elasticity of growth between 1960 and 1980, on the one hand, and after 2000, on the other hand, illustrates the point. The social dislocations and citizens’ diswelfares, even in the context of improved growth on the back of commodity super boom, have not shown commensurate reduction. In most instances, the diswelfares have deepened. Wealth-based inequality has worsened, and poverty rate (measured at $3.10 PPP/day) is above 70% of the population in several countries.

From the idea of a state that ‘thinks’ in terms of a comprehensive obligation for securing long-term national wellbeing and development and politics organised around securing such wellbeing and development, what has emerged is a ‘night-watchman’ state, more recently recast in the language of the ‘capable state’—one more focused on securing the space for private investors than the wellbeing of its citizens. Economic policy became increasingly disconnected from social policy, with a public policy orientation that is averse to socialised provisioning, solidaristic risk pooling, (inter-class) redistribution, and universalism. Social policy became largely residual.

Social policy has always been shaped by two broad contending forces. On the one hand, are those who see its objectives as mopping up the diswelfares of market and institutional failure. On the other hand, are those who see social policy as having an encompassing reach and coverage, integrated with economic policy, and driven by norms of equality and solidarity. The former takes a residual approach, with market as the first port of call in social provisioning and public welfare as port of last resort focused on the deserving poor who are not able to meet their own social provisioning. The latter addresses diswelfares in both the ways we pursue development and design production activities and respond to needs at various stages of the life-cycle.

Over the last thirty years, in response to Africa’s development challenges and diswelfares that its citizens face, a more residual take on social policy has become largely hegemonic, with powerful external and local actors using the continent as site of a range of social experiments. Much of this has been driven by an anti-development thinking that imagines the solution to poverty as largely a matter of “just giving money to the poor”—even as the ‘poor’ are defined in highly restrictive fashion to cover a smaller proportion of the population experiencing severe entitlement failure—or a direct distribution of earnings from mineral wealth to citizens (a question of ‘oil to cash’). Development is conceptualised more as the relieve of chronic poverty and less as the structural transformation of economy, society, and social institutions. Quantitative measures of the multiplier effects of cash transfers on local economy becomes an indicator of economic growth. Social assistance instruments are deemed transformative when households can afford to pay school fees or healthcare, increase household assets in livestock. Claims of the ending of intergenerational poverty are made on at best very thin evidence. Increasingly, what we have is a public policy regime sustained by an alliance of domestic and external actors—the NGO format of the former sometimes created at the behest of the latter. If we understand the relations between state and citizens as a web of rights and obligations, the retreat of the state from socialised and universal social provisioning undermines the legitimacy of the state, weakens citizen-state social compact, reinforces the more coercive face of the state in its engagements with citizens, and undermines social cohesion. Leaving citizens to fend for themselves in the market place subjects them to the vagaries of the market. Neither is there evidence that reducing social policy to social assistance, which is narrowly focused on the deserving poor in increasingly dualistic social policy regimes, eliminates poverty or ensures quality services for the poor.

Progressive social policy is fundamentally about ensuring human flourishing. It does this by enhancing the productive capacity of citizens through public investment in education, healthcare, housing, etc.; reconciling ‘the burden of reproduction with that of other social tasks’ (Mkandawire); it is about protecting people from the vagaries of life throughout the life-cycle; it pays attention to the distributive outcome of economic performance; and it should advance social cohesion (and achieving the nation-building objectives so vital in the African context). Progressive social policy does all these more efficiently through a ‘prophylactic’ approach of preventing vulnerability rather than waiting to attend to it after people have fallen through the cracks. It is a social policy approach that seeks to be transformative. A transformative social policy approach does these by creating a synergy between economic and social policies and addressing the structural bases of poverty, inequality, and vulnerability. It seeks to enhance human flourishing through the transformation of the economy, social relations (including perhaps most importantly gender relations), social institution, and deepening ‘public reasoning.’

The 2018 Governance Institute will address on the dynamics of social policymaking in Africa; identify the drivers of policies and their policy preferences; it would seek to address the issue of the nature of politics and the constitution of the public sphere necessary for enhanced economic transformation, human flourishing, and new forms of social compact—in other words, issues of inclusive development. Laureates are invited to engage with these issues and explore the different national and regional experiences of modes of governance of the African social policy space, the drivers of public policy, and explore the modes of governance and politics necessary for enhanced human wellbeing and development.

Call for Laureates

Applicants who wish to be considered as laureates should be PhD candidates or scholars in their early career with a proven capacity to conduct research on the theme of the Institute. Intellectuals active in the policy process and/or social movements and civil society organizations are also encouraged to apply. The number of places offered by CODESRIA at each session is limited to fifteen (15). CODESRIA will however provide for five (5) places for participants willing to self-fund their participation. Young African academics from the Diaspora and Non-African scholars who are able to fund their participation may also apply for a limited number of places. It is absolutely important that applicants demonstrate a serious engagement with this call for applications in their proposals.

Applications for laureates

Applications for participation as laureate should include:


  • 1. One duly completed application form;

  • 2. An application letter;

  • 3. A letter indicating institutional or organizational affiliation;
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4. A curriculum vitae;

  • 5. A research proposal not more than ten (10) pages including a descriptive analysis of the work the applicant intends to undertake, an outline of the theoretical interest of the topic chosen by the applicant, the relationship of the topic to the problematic and concerns of the theme of the 2018 Institute; 
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6. Two (2) reference letters from scholars or researchers known for their competence and expertise in the candidate’s research area (geographic and disciplinary), including their names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses;

  • 7. A copy of the passport.

Applications Deadline

The deadline for the submission of applications is 30 April 2018. Selected applicants will be notified by15th May 2018. Laureates are required to revise their proposals which will be presented during the Institute as a draft research paper. Draft papers should be submitted to CODESRIA not later than 10th June 2018. Laureates will be required to work on their papers during the Institute in preparation for publication after the Institute.

Submission of Applications

Applicants are requested to use the following link http://codesria.org/submission to submit their proposals.




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