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Crisis narratives and the African paradox: African informal economies, COVID-19 and the decolonization of social policy

Meagher, Kate (2022) Crisis narratives and the African paradox: African informal economies, COVID-19 and the decolonization of social policy. Development and Change, 53 (6). 1200 - 1229. ISSN 0012-155X

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Identification Number: 10.1111/dech.12737


This article challenges the role of COVID-19 crisis narratives in shaping social policy choices in Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on Africa's vast informal economies, both as a symbol of the continent's intense vulnerability to the ravages of the pandemic, and as a puzzle in the face of the uneven and limited effects of COVID-19 across the continent. Indeed, an examination of statistical and documentary evidence reveals an inverse relationship between COVID-19 fatalities and the size of African informal economies, and a perverse relationship between best-practice COVID social protection responses and levels of COVID-19 mortality. Scrutinizing the evidence behind African COVID-19 crisis narratives raises questions about the ability of donor-led digitized social protection paradigms to address social needs in highly informalized, low-resource environments. This article highlights the role of crisis narratives as an exercise of power geared to remastering, homogenizing and reimagining African informal economies in ways that facilitate particular types of development intervention, sidelining alternative, more socially grounded policy perspectives. Through a closer examination of historical and contemporary realities in Africa's vast and varied informal economies, the article highlights the need to decolonize social policy by privileging local needs and policy perspectives over global policy agendas in the interest of transformative rather than palliative policy responses.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2022 15:09
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024 03:51

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