The political economy of social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa: Tracing the agenda in Zambia and Zimbabwe
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This study traces the political economy of the social protection policy processes in the two country case studies of Zambia and Zimbabwe. It focuses on the role of global actors/external agencies (bilaterals, multilaterals and IFIs), national actors (government, parliament) and local actors (beneficiary communities, INGOs, CSOs) in social protection policy evolution. It looks at the power dynamics within the policy space: who is more powerful and who is less powerful, who voices and whose voice matters, who makes decisions and who follows decisions, who drives the policy and who follows, who has the money and who follows the money, who consults and who is consulted, and whether the rural communities (perceived beneficiaries) are active participants or ‘passive’ recipients. Therefore, the study is based on key informant interviews with officials from government, external agencies, INGOs and CSOs as well as focus group discussions with the communities. What emerges is that social protection is a policy contestation between the external agencies themselves; between external agencies and the government; between personnel of the same external agency; and within the government itself. Despite being driven by a common goal to fight poverty, external agencies have different global social protection policy positions and each would ‘push’ for the adoption of that policy position over the rest. Contestation between external agencies and the government reflect that government priorities differ from those of the external agencies. While external agencies pushed for social protection, the government would prefer agricultural subsidies to support the productive capacity of the people. Intra-government ‘struggles’ relate to the contest over which ministry is best placed to coordinate social protection and Ministry of Finance’s ambivalence over budgetary commitment to social protection. The study therefore underscores the primacy of politics in social protection.