Social policy as an academic concept and practice has been pivotal in human development in the past century. It has been instrumental in advancing the lives of citizens through different interventions. It is particularly well known for providing the basis for the for social protection through mitigatory interventions which target citizens who would have been negatively affected by the market economy. It also provides a refuge and alternatives for those who due to life circumstances find themselves in need of assistance. In the social policy discourse, the state can be seen as a central actor. While there is debate on the definition and nature of social policy, some of the functions of social policy include solving societal problems, improving social conditions, ensuring equitable distribution of social benefits, ensuring social equality and justice, ensuring the redistribution of wealth and income, etc. It is discernible in health, education, pensions, welfare services among other social interventions. While social policy has for years been grounded in the Welfare state ideology, that was grounded in the social protection, safety net discourse, there has been gradual transition with advocates of social policy in the global south arguing for a return to the ‘wider vision’ of social policy which places emphasis on the ability of social policy to transform social, economic and political relations. Examples of countries in Eastern Asia are given showing how social policies can be used as a stimulant for economic development which ultimately benefit citizens. Countries in the global south are encouraged to have social policies that are not residual and move gradually away from the safety-net mentality. Social policy interventions need to have a wide range of objectives, institutions and political tools that act in a transformational manner and are a stimulant for economic and sustainable development.
AfriFuture acknowledges the important role which social policies play in human-centred development hence this research unit dedicated to research and contribution to social policymaking and capacity development of practitioners, institutions, and academics. The Unit is dedicated to understanding social policy trajectories in the global south and engaging in critical debates on social policy. It endeavours to show that social policymaking (and public policy in general) can have outcomes that positively contribute to the production, social protection, reproduction, social cohesion/nation-building and redistribution dimensions in societies in the global south.