Panel 37

African migrants’ vulnerability, regional social policy development, and pan-africanist ideals

Panel organisers: Christal O. Spel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria. and Jimi Adesina, DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa


This panel explores contemporary African migrants’ vulnerability from a social policy and pan-Africanist perspective that links migrants’ welfare to the development of African regional social policy and integration. From a Social Policy perspective, this panel seeks to move beyond the traditional state-centric framework for Social Policy to explore contemporary African migrants’ vulnerability from a regional perspective that incorporates or proposes a regional prerogative of care for African migrants. In this sense, the activities and policies of regional institution to facilitate the integration of African migrants to host societies and or facilitate improvements in the welfare of African migrants in host society is placed under scrutiny. In addition, the capacity of African migrants to self-organize for optimization of individual and group welfare irrespective of national tensions also becomes relevant.

From a regional integration perspective, we call attention to contemporary pan-Africanist interests on integration and social cohesion, pursued through trade pacts beyond traditional sub-regions such as the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA), and political interests to promote self-determination in the African Union. In that vein, the works of renowned and unapologetic Africanists such as Archie Mafeje that espouses the ideals of Africa-centered paradigms and empirical frameworks becomes relevant in the examination of African migration. However, pan-Africanist ideals are also challenged by current African migrants’ experiences of vulnerability, brutality and xenophobia from the north (e.g. Morocco and Libya) to the South (e.g. South Africa) of the continent, and the increasing complicit interference of international interests in shaping migration within Africa.

The papers intended for presentation at this panel should explore the conceptual, analytical and empirical linkages between African migrants’ vulnerability, the development of regional social policy, and regional integration. The panel aims to contribute to the debate on African migrants’ welfare beyond the mainstream nation-state framework.

Approved abstracts panel 37

Session 1

1. Joint Labour Migration Governance Programme for Regional Integration and Development in Africa: Critical findings for Migration Governance in Africa

Author: Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwo, ILO Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

The goals and objectives of the Africa Labour Migration Governance programme derive from the long term aspiration of achieving an effective regime of labour mobility for integration and development in Africa, with the necessary governance to sustain it. Pursuant to the overall purposes, the Joint Programme facilitates implementation of the strategy of the AU Agenda 2063 and the AUC Strategic Plan 2014-2017. It also aligns with the strategic themes of the AU Migration Policy Framework and carries forward the priority actions of the AU Youth and Women Employment Pact, and the AU Employment Creation, Poverty Eradication and Inclusive Development Plan of Action, which was adopted by the African Heads of State and Governments during the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly (January 2015). It strategically responds to the Africa- EU Partnership on mobility and migration. The project also addresses the needs and concerns of migrant workers, their families and their organizations. The programme is logically organized in two major and complementary parts: 1. Strengthen effective governance of labour migration in Africa; and 2. Promote decent work for regional integration and inclusive development. The presentation will examine interesting findings from this programme.

2. African Migrants and Social Inclusion in a Context of Regional Integration

Author: Christal O. Spel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.

Estimates emphasize the large volume and diversity of African mobility within Africa. Presently, on the one hand, the common national policy response to informal migration is to strengthen migration control and deportation processes. For example, the AFDB and AU visa report (2016) shows that only 13 out of 55 African countries offer liberal visa access (Visa free or visa on arrival) to all Africans. Also, South Africa deported 312, 733, 00 informal African migrants between 2007-2008, and 75,336,00 between 2011-2012. On the other, in the contemporary drive for regional integration, national borders in Africa are being politically blurred to facilitate the mobility of trade and labour in line with regional development goals. For example, the 1.2 trillion dollars Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA) that was initiated in 2008 and signed in June 2015, embracing 26 African nations with population of over 527million. More recently, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), signed on March 21 2018 has been lauded by the media as the biggest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization (WTO). The AFCFTA is expected to be signed by all the member states of the African Union, making it a trade area of 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over 2 trillion dollars. In the above regional context, the vulnerability and social exclusion of African migrants have soared, calling attention to a widening social gap in the quest for African regional integration. As regional actors focus on economic integration, with neoliberal assumptions that benefits will trickle down to all and sundry, the case of informal African migrants’ wellbeing and social inclusion becomes relevant from a critical perspective. This paper will present part of my preliminary fieldwork data that examines whether and how African regional institution affect the substantive wellbeing and social inclusion of African migrants in the host country.

Session 2

1. Migration, Rights and Social Assistance in Southern Africa

Author: Jeremy Seekings, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

The expansion of social protection across Southern (and East) Africa poses challenges with regard to eligibility criteria. Rights to contribution-financed social insurance benefits might not be limited legally by citizenship and location, but are widely curtailed in practice. Rights to tax-financed social assistance are more contentious. Through the expansion of social assistance programmes (especially social pension programmes), national governments have assumed many of the responsibilities previously shouldered by kin or community, replacing the boundaries of kinship or community with those of citizenship or location. This poses at least two major challenges: How to regulate eligibility in border areas, where borders are porous and citizenship perhaps blurred; and what to do about non-citizens. This paper explores these challenges, and responses to them – including, most notably, the South African constitutional court’s judgements that certain categories of non-citizens were eligible for social assistance. Discourses and legislation governing eligibility for social assistance is examined in light of both general elite ideologies of responsibility and the political pressures resulting from electoral politics.

2. Migration, Social Policy, and the Idea of Pan-Africanism: Rethinking the conceptual framework

Author: Jimi Adesina, DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, City of Tshwane, South Africa.

The ideas of pan-Africanism and regional integration was originally constructed largely as a cultural, political and economic agenda. But pan-Africanism and regional integration are ultimately about people and their movement. Free movement of people assumes access to social provisioning in the locale of residence. Yet the discourse of social policy assumes rights inscribed on bearers of citizenship. If for TH Marshall access to rights reaches it epoch with social rights, these are nonetheless bound in the language of citizenship. Extension to such rights to non-citizens is often circumscribed. Underpinning social rights is an assumption of states with obligations to provide such rights.

The AU Agenda 2063 sets out a vision to “enhance free movement of African citizens in all African countries by 2018” and the issuance of ‘the African Passport.” This is linked to two migration policy instruments of the Union: the AU Migration Policy Framework for Africa (2006) and African Common Position on Migration and Development (2006). The principle of non-discrimination in the Framework and the implied rights assumed in bearers of ‘African passport’ inhabit a double paradox: on the one hand, the moment of invocation of such principles (and the heightened deployment of the language of universal human rights to underpin social provisioning) is also one in which the state’s public obligations for social provisioning is being severely retrenched on the continent. Public provisioning is often reduced to targeted poor-centric social assistance. On the other, is the privileging, in practice, of trade and financial flows over people.

Rethinking the nexus of social policy in the context of migration requires rethinking not simply the state/citizens nexus but state/residents nexus. State’s obligations that extend to migrants derive from the obligations the state accepts it owes to its own citizens, framed within the principle of universalism. At its best, it is underpinned by the principle of ‘from each according to his/her ability and to each according to his/her needs.’ It involves twinning production with redistribution. This paper offers such rethinking of the nexus of migration and social policy. At the heart of this is sensitivity to the diversity of migration.

3. ‘Financial Inclusion via Social Cash Transfers: The Case of South Africa’

Author: Lena Sophia Gronbach, Human Economy Programme, University of Pretoria, South Africa.;

In recent years, two separate but potentially complementary trends have emerged in the global South: the emergence of digital payment technologies with their enormous potential to boost financial inclusion, and the extension of social cash transfer programmes as a means to address poverty and inequality. Increasingly, these two developments are being translated into a single headline objective: to replace cash-based payments with digital transfers into ‘financially inclusive’ accounts, thus promoting financial inclusion among the recipients of social cash transfers. According to the proponents of this strategy, this will create a ‘triple-win scenario’, benefitting the state, private financial companies, and the poor alike.

South Africa, which boasts the largest social cash transfer system on the continent, has assumed a pioneering role in implementing this ‘G2P approach’. In light of the growing interest among African policymakers in implementing similar programmes, the South African case thus holds valuable lessons for other developing countries. Yet, the case has not been without controversy and has revealed a number of important issues with regard to the use of digital G2P payments as a means to promote financial inclusion. Moreover, the South African government has failed to reap the potentially large benefits of ‘mobile money’ technologies, relying instead on the traditional banking infrastructure.

This paper outlines how South Africa used its rapidly expanding social grant system to ‘bank the unbanked’ and discusses the main issues that emerged in this process. These include the protection of beneficiary data, the harshly-criticized practice of cross-selling financial services to grant recipients, debit deductions from beneficiaries’ bank accounts, the relationship between the state and its financial contractor, and the considerable cost of the current system. The paper argues that, despite its potential to act as a catalyst for financial inclusion, the ‘G2P approach’ in its current form requires considerable fine-tuning in order to work for instead of against the poor.

To the top