News from Project B09

Dr. Stephen Devereux, Anna Wolkenhauer, PhD
Dr. Stephen Devereux, Anna Wolkenhauer, PhD
Our Mercator Fellow Stephen Devereux is investigating the role of international donors in the spread of social protection in Africa. Having published a CRC 1342 working paper, he is currently writing a paper with Anna Wolkenhauer on this topic.

Almost non-existent in Africa 20 years ago, social cash transfers targeted to the poor and vulnerable have been adopted today by the majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In his CRC 1342 working paper, Stephen Devereux describes four causal mechanisms that are being discussed in the literature to have led to the rapid introduction of social protection programmes in Africa since the millennium - learning, com­petition, emulation, and coercion. Devereux then focuses on the pivotal role of transnational actors, specifically international development agencies, as ‘policy pollinators’ for social protection. By introducing ’policy pollination’, Devereux contributes a fifth mechanism to the literature on the diffusion of social protection in the Global South. “These agencies”, Devereux writes, “deployed a range of tactics to induce African governments to implement cash transfer programmes and establish social protection systems, including:

  1. building the empirical evidence base that cash transfers have posi­tive impacts, for advocacy purposes;
  2. financing social protection programmes until governments take over this responsibility;
  3. strengthening state capacity to deliver social protection, through technical assistance and training workshops;
  4. commissioning and co-authoring national social protection policies;
  5. encour­aging the domestication of international social protection law into national legis­lation."

Devereux does not make any judgement as to whether a donor-driven process of introducing social protection programmes is good or bad. But he raises the question about the extent “to which the agendas of development agencies are aligned or in conflict with national priorities, and whether social protection programmes and systems would flourish or wither if international support was withdrawn”.

At the moment, Stephen Devereux and CRC 1342 member Anna Wolkenhauer are looking even more closely at international development agencies in pushing for the adoption of cash transfer programmes by African governments. They argue for making individual agents and their agendas central in the analysis of such policy diffusion, and they do this by analysing the social protection policy diffusion process in Zambia through three individual agents located between the national and the international.

Devereux and Wolkenhauer presented their draft paper at an InIIS/CRC 1342 colloquium in mid-May and have received valuable feedback by colleagues from the University of Bremen as well as international researchers. They are planning to submit the refined version of their paper within the next couple of weeks to an international peer-reviewed journal.


Read Stephen Devereux’s working paper: Policy pollination. A brief history of social protection’s brief history in Africa

Dr. Stephen Devereux
Dr. Anna Wolkenhauer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57099

In "Social Policy & Administration", 7 CRC 1342 projects have presented case studies of social policy dynamics in the Global South. Their synthesis shows: The concept of causal mechanisms is particularly well suited for analysing such dynamics.

Seven projects of CRC 1342's project area B have published a Special Regional Issue of "Social Policy & Administration": Causal mechanisms in the analysis of transnational social policy dynamics: Evidence from the global south. The main research question the authors address is: Which causal mechanisms can capture the transnational dynamics of social policy in the Global South?

In order to find answers to this question, the authors present in‐depth case studies of social policy dynamics in different countries and regions in the Global South as well as different fields. All articles focus on the interplay of national and transnational actors when it comes to social policy‐making. (The papers of this Special Issue are listed below.)

The key findings of the authors are:

  • Explanations of social policy‐making in the Global South will remain incomplete unless transnational factors are taken into account
  • However, this does not mean that national factors are no longer important. In social policy decision‐making, national institutional settings and actors are key
  • Mechanism‐based research can plausibly trace the interplay between transnational and national actors and its impact on shaping social policy outcomes. The articles identify a variety of causal mechanisms that can capture this interplay
  • The output of social policy‐making is complex and can often not be explained by a single mechanism. Examining the combination and possible interaction of several causal mechanisms can provide more in‐depth explanations 
  • The concept of causal mechanisms can also be applied in comparative analyses
  • Mechanisms can be traced inductively in one case and then be applied to another case.


Johanna Kuhlmann & Tobias ten Brink (2021). Causal mechanisms in the analysis of transnational social policy dynamics: Evidence from the global south. Social Policy & Administration.

Armin Müller (2021). Bureaucratic conflict between transnational actor coalitions: The diffusion of British national vocational qualifications to China. Social Policy & Administration.

Johanna Kuhlmann & Frank Nullmeier (2021). A mechanism‐based approach to the comparison of national pension systems in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Social Policy & Administration.

Kressen Thyen & Roy Karadag (2021). Between affordable welfare and affordable food: Internationalized food subsidy reforms in Egypt and Tunisia. Social Policy & Administration.

Monika Ewa Kaminska, Ertila Druga, Liva Stupele & Ante Malinar (2021). Changing the healthcare financing paradigm: Domestic actors and international organizations in the agenda setting for diffusion of social health insurance in post‐communist Central and Eastern Europe. Social Policy & Administration.

Gulnaz Isabekova & Heiko Pleines (2021). Integrating development aid into social policy: Lessons on cooperation and its challenges learned from the example of health care in Kyrgyzstan. Social Policy & Administration.

Anna Safuta (2021). When policy entrepreneurs fail: Explaining the failure of long‐term care reforms in Poland. Social Policy & Administration.

Jakob Henninger & Friederike Römer (2021). Choose your battles: How civil society organisations choose context‐specific goals and activities to fight for immigrant welfare rights in Malaysia and Argentina. Social Policy & Administration.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382

Dr. Alex Veit, Dr. Clement Chipenda
Dr. Alex Veit, Dr. Clement Chipenda
Clement Chipenda and Alex Veit analyse South Africa's food policy developments by looking at school feeding programmes and subsidies. Available as a new CRC 1342 working paper.

Their working paper offers a chronological analysis of South African food policy from the founding of South Africa as a semi-autonomous settler state to the democratic revolution.

Drawing on primary sources from archives and secondary literature, Chipenda and Veit compare two food security policies: school feeding programmes and food subsidies. In the period between the world wars, food scarcity and insecurity became an increasing problem, making food policy a fundamental part of the expanding welfare state. Free school meals were an important instrument from which all children benefited until the apartheid regime came to power in the late 1940s. The regime then excluded African children from the school meals.Contradictory at first sight, another food policy instrument remained in place under the apartheid regime from which all, including African populations, benefited and which was even expanded over the years: general food subsidies.

To explain these developments, Chipenda and Veit analyse the figuration of actors and their interdependencies:

  • the dominant, nationalist forces of the white political establishment, which denied responsibility for the welfare of the African population
  • the liberal, democratic, philanthropic and church groups that demanded food security for all population groups
  • industrialists, especially from the agricultural and extractive sectors, who stressed the importance of a healthy, numerous working population.

The dependence of South Africa's agricultural and extractive industries on cheap African labour, may have been the deciding factor, leading to central government regulation and subsidisation of the agricultural and food markets. But Chipenda and Veit point to the "peculiar figuration" of nationalist, capitalist, liberal, philanthropic forces that agreed to act together on food policy, albeit for different interests.

Read the full Working Paper: The trajectory of food security policies in South Africa, 1910-1994. The persistence of food subsidies

Dr. Alex Veit
Dr. Kressen Thyen, Dr. Roy Karadag
Dr. Kressen Thyen, Dr. Roy Karadag
Kressen Thyen and Roy Karadag have investigated why Tunisia is holding on to subsidies despite international criticism, while Egypt has undertaken reforms. In the interview, they talk about their findings, which they have recently published.

Who is benefitting most from food subsidies in Tunisia and Egypt – the poor, or the elites?

Kressen Thyen: There are several ways to answer this question, I suppose. But first, let us look at how that is done: Public authorities have acted after World War II in different spheres to lower and stabilize the price of food, be it by setting incentives for peasants to produce wheat and other products for local markets, by providing inputs to peasants to make that production possible, and for some time even by distributing and redistributing land to smallholders. Plus, favorable price policies stabilized the profit expectations of peasants, millers and traders and secured deliveries of enough food into the cities where most of that food is consumed. While all of these economic actors also profit from the state’s regulation of food markets, the main beneficiaries would still be the urban poor.

Roy Karadag: Well, with that question, one already gets to the tricky aspect of having systems of food subsidization and the ways it has been contested since the 1980s. And that contestation lives with these stark contrasts, having the poor on the one side and the elites on the other side. And since those first studies done under the purview of the World Bank in the early 1980s which academically produced the field of food subsidies in Egypt, for example, that was very much the focus: arguing that food subsidies do not benefit the poor as much as they do richer people.

Kressen Thyen: Of course, that is much more complicated and cannot be put in these general frames, as the question of ‘benefitting’ definitely needs further qualification. What is obvious is that people and families from middle and higher social classes have more money and can buy more food, and members of these groups have, of course, also bought foodstuff to benefit from cheap prices. In the language of targeting, yes, that has always been a bone of contention. But then again, given that poor people do not have as much money, they are much more dependent on these cheap prices in order to get food on the table for themselves and their children. So, in relative terms, the poor benefit more or most from food subsidization. Because the alternative to buying cheap bread, rice etc. is to suffer from undernutrition and hunger.

Food subsidies have been criticised as being an expensive and insufficient measure to reduce poverty. Do you agree with this critique?

Kressen Thyen: Well, in this case, too, the issue is one of appropriate and fair framing. Food subsidies are not a good tool if you really aim to reduce relative poverty and to redistribute resources. But then again, are they supposed to do that? Rather, they are tools to help poor people having access to enough food on the table. So, one may rather frame it that they do not reduce relative poverty, but that they are there to fight and overcome hunger. And with respect to the latter, North African countries have seen enormous improvements with respect to hunger and malnutrition since World War II.

Roy Karadag: Yes, I mean, sure you can criticize the ways that material goal of eradicating hunger translates into specific public procedures of price-setting, of directing agriculture and providing infrastructures of stores and bakeries to reach the poor. But the overall goal is to have affordable food, and I do not see any problem with that goal, especially in countries that are much poorer than here in central Europe, for example.

Kressen Thyen: One will be able to set up comparisons between poor countries in the 1950s and their developmental trajectories until the 1980s and today. And then, you easily find successful ways out of poverty where states did not have to rely on similar forms of food subsidization as in North Africa. And where states have rivalling forms of social safety and poverty alleviation. But that is no justification to attack subsidies in contexts where poverty has remained pervasive.

Roy Karadag: One need not categorically reject attempts to have better targeting or to be aware of the financial limitations of food subsidization. That has been accepted ever more since the 1970s and the connection between high subsidy expenditure, budgetary pressures and mass protests. Countries that ultimately depend on having to provide cheap food will run serious legitimacy deficits if they cannot control prices – as in this region where countries have become food import dependent since the 1960s and 70s. That is a problem, and it would, of course, be better if there were enough other forms of social security and welfare. But that does not mean that one can just get rid of food subsidization and the public promise of affordable food and nurturing the poor.

There are alternatives to food subsidies on the “social policy tool market”: very popular among these are social cash transfers that became widely applied in many low- and middle-income countries. Would not these be more targeted to support the poorer parts of society than food subsidies (– at the end of the day there are only so many loafs of bread you can eat)?

Roy Karadag: I would argue that this global drive toward cash transfers is nothing but a financial compensation for all those contexts when there are no other welfare policies available or when those are not wanted and do not fit the dominant developmental scripts. Yes, I am for more money in the pockets of poor people, but the reason this idea is becoming hegemonic across all developmental organizations is that it does not get into the way of liberal welfare understandings. But what would the difference be to existing welfare benefits when you have to spend that money for more expensive food? I doubt that.

Kressen Thyen: It is questionable to assume that such cash transfers will actually be more redistributive than existing frameworks. If the critique toward food subsidization is: They are not redistributive enough and stabilize highly unequal social settings, then one should also confront cash transfer ideas with that same critique and question whether they are truly redistributive. And that is just one dimension. Think also of the consequences of targeting and the drive to ever more and better targeting to really make sure that only the needy receive those payments. The registration of the very poor under conditions of significant parts of the population facing structural poverty is very tricky, needs a lot of financial and bureaucratic resources and needs to be legitimized.

Roy Karadag: The other overarching issue or argument focuses on the liberalization of agriculture and food markets: this is what actors like the World Bank and proponents of neoliberal ideas are after, their argument, promise and hope being that liberalized markets will bring more and, ergo, cheaper food to the cities, as the existing inefficiencies and crony networks would be broken up, competition would rule, and that there would be enough incentive to get food to the urban poor at the right price level. This is the liberal promise: but one should seriously question this claim. Why should food be as cheap in the future without public subsidization? When countries are dependent on food imports, have free floating currencies, and when agricultural producers earn more with cash crops for international markets. You need a lot of trust and belief in market mechanisms making sure that there would be no price escalation against which one would offer no price cushion, any longer.

Kressen Thyen: Think of the loss of legitimacy this would entail, and of the potential for mass protests. As we spell out, there is a concrete tragic of food subsidization: If you offer too much, you will run into budgetary and financial pressure, in particular when you cannot control the price of food due to your position in global food and agriculture markets. But if you reduce them too much to counter that budgetary pressure, you run the risk of triggering food riots. Experts critical of subsidies want to get countries out of that food subsidies trap. But they cannot guarantee another trustworthy future with stable food prices in a world without subsidies.

The international pressure to abolish food subsidies was high for many years if not decades, and the costs of the subsidies are very high and volatile. Why do Tunisia and Egypt do stick with it anyway (– to a greater and lesser extent)?

Roy Karadag: Well, because of their enormous symbolic value in North African societies. Hunger and undernutrition have been devastating in times of economic crises and war in past centuries. And past collective exposures to hunger continue to determine what people expect of their governments, affordable food being very high on the agenda.

Kressen Thyen: Don’t forget that this is also the only social policy tool with which the state actually reaches the entire populace. That is not the case for other policy fields in which the reach of the state is much more limited, for example in labour policy and social security. Informal labour relations are just too prevalent in Egypt and Tunisia, and formalization may be a fine goal, but it is very complicated to realize under the existing conditions. The same goes for all those promises of universal healthcare and public schooling, of child welfare and social assistance. But everybody comes to the market to buy and consume food. Which is why you reach everybody with these measures. And the fact that ‘bread’ was also one of the big rallying slogans in the mass protests of 2010 and 2011 emphasized this symbolic value and its place in society. People do not want to relieve the state of its obligation to guarantee affordable food.

Roy Karadag: One should keep in mind that inequality has been increasing over the past century, that there is enormous pressure across middle classes, who struggle to keep their social positions. The danger of impoverishment is very much felt by middle classes who join and participate in mobilizations for maintaining subsidies. And, as I said, food is a symbolically much more relevant field than, e.g. in transport and energy, where states cut much more subsidies. There, too, there were protests against high costs of living, but not with that same fervour as usually happens in context of bread price increases.

Kressen Thyen: So, that was now all limited to expectations among the populace and issues of legitimacy beliefs and mobilization capacities. The other dimension is then on how that translates into actual government policies to live with that kind of pressure and generalized expectations. And, here, we enter the field of internationalized reforms, of the modes through which pressures from above and below are mediated by ruling elites. And, in brief, this has mostly been in the mode of brokerage, meaning ruling elites muddling through these pressures, trying to maintain enough leverage vis-à-vis both sides.

Roy Karadag: And then, with the regime changes and new internationalized politics after a first couple of transitional years, paths actually diverge, and there is much more movement in Egypt and none, anymore, in Tunisia, as we lay out in the article. But, more movement did not mean abolishing them, just liberalizing more than others to get all that praise from expert communities.

In your paper you write a very strong sentence: “The internationally recommended adjustment of North African welfare systems to more market-friendly economic policies is empirically tied to violence and repression.” Could you explain that please? And does that mean that IOs and other international actors should rather stop pushing towards welfare state reforms in Northern Africa?

Kressen Thyen: The linkage between violence, state coercion and autocracy, on the one hand, and economic liberalization, on the other hand, is a quite established one. Not just for this region. And in this more concrete case, yes, you have experts calling for the implementation of policies that are not popular and would not survive a democratic process. That is also not specific to these countries: welfare state retrenchment is always a tricky affair and usually leads to protest mobilization and contestation. That is one reason why Tunisian politics could not be steered in the post-2013 years to move to further subsidy cuts or to even think of more targeting measures. And it is one big factor in overcoming that huge gulf between IO demands and popular demands. That was only overcome in the context of crushing activist space and oppositional networks and of crushing the most powerful oppositional political bloc of that time, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood.

Roy Karadag: Yes, it is not because of smarter policy outlooks or of better political communication between the various interest groups that the new military rulers under the Sisi government managed to stage themselves as transformative reformers as in the case of the 2014 food subsidy reforms. What sets them apart from earlier governments is, instead, their transformative use of repression and coercion.

Now, if one is politically or academically in line with liberal reform demands from the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, from actors like Germany and the US, then one may surely continue pressing for policy changes. But one should be very much aware what the signal is when one positively credits governments like the Egyptian one for its capacity to introduce such changes. Because such certification and legitimization also legitimizes the enormous violence associated with that policy. And here, I would very much urge people to not do that. And to be appropriate in one’s academic judgment as to why things happen the way they did.

Kressen Thyen: Yes, we did not write this to say there should be no international cooperation or that there must not be policy recommendations by such organizations or even that subsidy systems should be upheld as they are. We mainly wanted to highlight the hypocrisies that such globally oriented organizations and big actors like Germany, to name just one big actor, stand for. Germany continues to express its hope in cooperating with this Egyptian government to make for a better economic future for Egypt and for Egyptian-German development cooperation, irrespective of the human rights record of Egyptian rulers. You may say, okay, that is Realpolitik. Fine, but what about expert communities hailing Egypt as a success and even model case? That should just not happen.

Roy Karadag: Yes, there is a lot of hypocrisy out there, which is nothing new in international and in Middle East and North African politics. We will not change that. But we at least wanted to make sure where the contradictions of internationalized food subsidy reforms lie, and that one should not gloss over all the violence associated to real life policy changes.


Read the full paper online:

Thyen, Kressen; Karadag, Roy, 2021: Between Affordable Welfare and Affordable Food: Internationalized Food Subsidy Reforms in Egypt and Tunisia, in: Social Policy & Administration, online first,

Dr. Roy Karadag
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67468

Dr. Kressen Thyen
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58515

Anna Wolkenhauer
Anna Wolkenhauer
Anna Wolkenhauer from InIIS covers Alex Veit until the end of March 2021 in project B09. We introduce her in a brief interview.

You had your defence in mid-September. How did it go, can we congratulate you?

Yes, you can! I won't have the title (PhD) until the publication of my monograph, but the defence went very well.

It's probably impossible, but still: Can you explain in a few sentences what your dissertation was about?

In my dissertation I investigated the question of how social policy and state formation are connected in the age of "Neoliberalism 2.0". During my work and research in Zambia, which now extends over many years, it became clear over time that exciting dynamics could be at work here. I interviewed government officials, social policy recipients, as well as people from civil society and international organisations in order to better understand the complex effects of the new social policy programmes on the state. In a process of qualitative analysis, I have identified various mechanisms by which statehood spreads from the centre to the periphery of the country, which manifests itself, for example, in the discursive involvement and bureaucratisation and standardisation of the population, as well as in political connections and possibilities of exerting influence. However, a certain ambivalence can be observed: In this expansion of statehood, the ideological and practical boundaries of the state, which are perceived as natural, are already built into it.

In the coming months you will stand in for Alex Veit (temporary professor in Marburg) in the CRC project B09 "The Rise, Decay and Renaissance of Social Policy in Africa". What tasks will you be taking on in the project?

I will contribute my results from Zambia for comparative discussions with the other country studies of the project and I will also contribute to publications.

What classes will you be taking over in the winter semester?

I will offer a BA seminar on "Politics in the Rural Area" as well as an tutorial on the lecture "International Relations".

What are your professional and career plans for the next few years?

I'm just starting to take a closer look at politics in rural areas and its interaction with state social policy. I am interested in the question of how changes linked to the globalisation of agriculture and the neo-liberal turn in social policy affect the way political participation and political self-image are perceived in the countryside.

Dr. Anna Wolkenhauer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57099

Dr. Alex Veit (photo: Caroline Wimmer)
Dr. Alex Veit (photo: Caroline Wimmer)
The co-director of project B09 will join the Center for Conflict Studies for the next six months. His work with CRC 1342 will remain unaffected.

Dear Alex, you are going to be a substitute professor at the University of Marburg - congratulations! Who are you covering for there?

Alex Veit: Thank you! I am standing in for my colleague Thorsten Bonacker at the Center for Conflict Studies.

For how long?

From October to March next year, i.e. for the winter semester. 

What are your plans for the time at Center for Conflict Studies?

I will be teaching the introduction course in peace and conflict research as well as seminars on humanitarian military interventions and on political economy and social movements in the Global South.

Regarding research, I look at the internationalisation of governance in Africa through the involvement of international actors in core governmental tasks. Key questions are: How can the role of international organisations, bilateral donors and development agencies in the organisation of security, welfare and development be understood theoretically? What effects does the powerful position of international actors have on the relationship between states and their citizens? And what conflicts arise from the internationalisation of governance, what patterns of conflict resolution can be observed?

What does all this mean for your work here at the CRC?

The research in project B09 will of course continue, in the current phase mainly by preparing publications.

Dr. Alex Veit
Clement Chipenda, PhD
Clement Chipenda, PhD
An interview with our Fellow Clement Chipenda about the social impact of the land reform in Zimbabwe, the consequences of the pandemic-related lockdown and his current research with our colleague Alex Veit.

About 20 years ago Zimbabwe has started the so-called fast-track land reform programme, redistributing about 7 million hectares of land. For a start, let’s recall what the motives for this programme had been.

Officially, the motive behind it was to reverse the legacy of colonialism. When colonialism ended in 1980, the number of white commercial farmers was about 6000. They owned 15 million hectares of prime agricultural land. At the same time almost a million black households were confined to communal areas, i.e. areas or former native reserves that were set aside during colonialism. The motive for the reform was officially, to try to redistribute the land equally. There had been attempts to do so in the decades after independence, but the area having been redistributed was very limited. Around the year 2000, when the fast track land reform programme began, only 75000 families have been resettled. In 1982 the target had been to resettle 182 000 families.

As you mention, the former attempts to redistribute the land had more or less failed: Why did the government in 2000 decide to push for this definite cut with the post-colonial system and pushed for the full implementation of the land reform?

The ruling party was facing increasing political opposition at that time. And there was also disgruntlement because veterans that had fought in the war, ordinary citizens and peasants were also demanding land - it remained the unfinished business of the liberation war. The process of the land reform started with farm occupations. The government initially enforced the law and was trying to evict the people occupying the farms. But in the end the pressure became too high so that the government also came on board and began to spearhead the land reform. These were the motives, but it was politically motivated and different people give different interpretations of the reform.

How is your take on the outcomes, 20 years later?

Usually people are analysing it in terms of its impact on the economy and the agricultural output, the analysis is always production oriented. The pressure to do so is made even worse because agriculture is key to the country's economy. But there are many bottlenecks and challenges in place. In terms of production you find that some people are not being as productive as they had been expected to be, but this is because of different challenges, e.g. expertise, lack of access to finance and markets and this is combined with other factors like droughts, climate change effects, obsolete infrastructure which make people conclude that the outcomes are bad. There are however other outcomes which are 20 years later can be seen as being positive, people now have access to a productive resource the land and associated access to natural resources which they never had before, they now have shelter and other numerous social reproduction and protection outcomes which have in different ways transformed people’s lives. Unfortunately, 20 years after the reforms, Zimbabwe has a serious food deficit, and at the moment 60% of the population needs support in terms of food. It’s a consequence of a combination of different factors but in such a situation the reforms are blamed. That's why you see different government initiatives to cover some of these production and food deficit gaps. But it is always a challenging situation.

In what respect has the new government’s policy changed?

The new government has a different approach to dealing with the land reform. The former administration was looking at the political context – for them the land had to be returned to the indigenous people as a final phase in the decolonization process.

The new government identified agriculture as the main driver for the economic development of Zimbabwe as a whole. Its approach is more or less along neo-liberal lines. They want to make agriculture profitable; the land should be productive. For the past year, we have read media reports on senior government officials’ threats that if resettled farmers are not productive, the land could be taken away from them. You need to understand that the land is owned by government, not by the individual who only has usufruct rights over it so the owner which is the government can withdraw those rights at any time. The government has also been encouraging peasants to find investors interested in assisting financially, so there is a huge difference between the old and news administrations when it comes to policy.

Do you see international investors coming into Zimbabwe already?

I don’t think the environment at the moment is conducive for investors, there are too many uncertainties, economic instability, bad publicity, political polarisation and sometimes policy inconsistency. These are the conditions which the country needs to get corrected if investors are to come and investors always look for a stable environment and I don’t think our country offers that at the moment. There is the question of tenure security. Reports of evictions, farm invasions, lack of respect of court orders and the rule of law make investors shy away from investing on the land as they see that there is no tenure security. People only invest, if they know that their investment is guaranteed, an unstable economy does not provide such guarantees. I think, as a country we still have a long way before those guarantees of investment security are made, the general situation in Zimbabwe is not yet stable enough for international investors. They are many who are interested but I think they are waiting by the side-lines and will move when the situation stabilises, for now I think the country is attractive to investors who just want to make a quick profit but leave no long term development.

You have studied the land reform intensively during your PhD. What was your focus?

I looked at the land reform as a social policy. My thesis was framed around the question how the land reform had affected people's livelihoods fifteen years after. I was trying to move away from the old debates that were solely focusing on the production questions, human rights violations and how the land reform processes were supposed to have been undertaken. My focus was to try and see if it is possible to look at land reform as a social policy instrument that is comparable to other social policies like pensions, social grants, education and other social welfare interventions. In this context, I was saying that giving people land, which is a productive a resource or currency, can be compared with for example social grants. My basic logic was thus, land as a redistributed resource should have outcomes that improve the welfare and livelihoods of people. If you look at any social policy it should have social protection outcomes, it should contribute to redistribution of resources and social cohesion and I felt that land, if redistributed, can have these outcomes. My focus was thus on individual households as I felt that at this level the outcomes were more evident. That's why I was looking at the household instead of the entire agricultural sector. I then proceeded to explore the idea that if land reform is a social policy, to what extent has it improved peoples’ livelihoods? What are the challenges? What are the small things that it has contributed to peoples’ lives? This was within the broader context of looking at how it had enhanced the welfare and wellbeing of peasant households.

It is probably hard to generalize the outcomes in this respect. But if you try to sum it up: What are the effects of the land reform on the household level?

I cannot generalize it for the whole country but only for the area that I was studying which is a district called Goromonzi in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. Even the area that I was studying has its own dynamics - for example it has fertile soils, favourable climatic conditions and is one of the best regions in the country so if you compare it with other areas even those nearby land reform outcomes differ. These factors contribute to how the landform has impacted on households. I was doing a comparison with people that live in the former reserve areas. In terms of production, the beneficiaries had slightly higher returns, because their counterparts live in poor areas with poor soils and lower rainfall. They also have better access to inputs, extension services and irrigation infrastructure so returns are higher.

In terms of marketing the beneficiaries of the land reform were better off because they have developed their own unique agricultural marketing networks and have support from the government and private companies some of whom they have contract farming arrangements, so this has contributed to improved incomes. And in terms of social protection, the land had actually become an asset that they could better use to protect themselves from risks and shocks compared to those who have smaller pieces of land or who did not have any land at all.

And there were also social and cultural dimensions to the reform. By having land, they actually have a place to stay, and I like to refer to it as a rural home. Members of the family who are facing challenges, even if they live in urban areas, have a place to go to in case of crisis like unemployment and poverty. Another dynamic that I was observing: People are practicing their traditional rituals at their places; they are having places for burials of their loved ones. These are aspects that are being ignored in the general narrative of the land reform but for African people traditions, culture and the linkage between the people and the land is something that is of much importance. The approach that I used in my thesis was not something conventional hence there were a lot of questions, but I think the logic was acceptable and was awarded the PhD. Since the award in 2019, I think the idea of land reform as a social policy instrument is becoming acceptable, I have even published some articles on it.

Let's look at the very recent situation - how does Covid-19 affect the rural population, especially with respect to food security?

Due to Covid-19, a lean 2019-2020 agricultural season and drought in Zimbabwe it is estimated that about 8 million people will be in need of food aid this year. The pandemic has disrupted agricultural production, planning for this season and the markets. Farmers and rural residents cannot go about their normal businesses and routines because Zimbabwe has been in lockdown since April, initially for two weeks but now the lockdown is indefinite. Movement is restricted, agricultural markets were initially closed but now partially opened. In many ways everyday life is disrupted. It's made worse because many people are employed in the informal sector - so when cities are shut down, it impacts a lot on people's livelihoods, it is difficult to generate income and it disrupts value chains at all levels. In terms of food security there are challenges as people cannot produce or purchase food. Some inputs are not accessible, some imported products have become very expensive, productive activities if not restricted are limited so this impacts in many ways on the food systems. For Zimbabwe, this is in a context where there is high unemployment with many families relying on remittances from other countries, especially from South Africa. When the country faced its own Covid-19 pandemic and closed down, this affected those working and sending remittances here and made sending and receiving money complicated, so Covid-19 had been a challenge.

How do the people deal with this situation in their everyday lives?

Farming was declared an essential service, so that the agricultural production wouldn't be disrupted, but it does not operate in a vacuum so what has been happening in other sectors of the economy has also affected the farming and rural communities. They have had to find different ways of coping. But overally, I think the pandemic has negatively affected a lot of people especially those in the informal sector and people living in the urban areas. They have their water bills to pay, they need to pay rent, they need to buy food, some have extended families to look after - how do they manage if they are not able to work? This becomes a challenge and even for those who work, working hours are restricted, customers are forced to stay at home and some trade in imported goods which are not coming as the borders are closed and even when they come the freight charges are exorbitant so it is a big challenge. In this situation people are just trying to make a living but under challenging conditions, it is interesting to note that people are slowly adapting to the ‘new normal’. This challenging situation is made worse because the support system put in place by the government, I feel is opaque and not sufficient. An example is social assistance during Covid-19. Most of the support for social protection from the government is channelled through the social welfare ministry. It has been reported that it will be using its database trying to identify potential beneficiaries. That leaves many people behind as some who are in need now due to the effects of Covid-19 may not even be in that database, making a lot of people fall into the cracks. The amount of money pledged for assistance to vulnerable households by the government has been very little and it is rendered useless by the hyperinflationary environment in the country and currency fluctuations.

Zimbabwe is in lockdown for many months now. Is the population still accepting the restrictions or is there some unrest?

There are mixed feelings indeed. People are tired now, they want to move on with their lives, they want to go out and work, and provide for their families. People want the economy to be opened, especially when they see countries like South Africa systematically lifting restrictions, the feeling is that we need to relax restrictions especially since confirmed positive cases have been low. But people cannot openly express themselves or demonstrate even if they strongly feel that the whole issue is not being handled properly. Interestingly even though people feel that the stringent restrictions should be loosened, there is a fear of Covid -19 hitting the country hard like in other countries so there is always that caution.

Let’s talk briefly about your research project with Alex Veit from the CRC’s project B09, focusing on food security policies in South Africa during the last 100 years. What exactly are you looking at?

Over the past hundred years different schemes were put in place to provide food-related assistance, targeting different demographic populations in the country. During this time, South Africa has undergone political and ideological transitions. We are asking: What has been the trajectory of food security policies in the country over the past century? We then go on to explore the different food security policies that were put in place by successive administrations in order to deal with poverty induced hunger and malnutrition. Of importance is to understand the role played by different actors and to provide an argument using the South African case that food security, which is an overlooked form of public welfare provision, can provide important insight into public welfare as a central aspect of state-society relations.

Our research has interesting cases like the school feeding scheme which we look at in the pre apartheid and apartheid era, which benefitted different demographic groups but was subjected to much racialised and at times shocking narratives. The interwoven interests and agendas of politicians, industrial and agrarian capitalists, philanthropists, religious leaders, African nationalists, trade unions, women’s organisations and other interest groups are looked at in our research which also touches on the food subsidy system. The dynamics of the food subsidy system which played an important role in maintaining the apartheid regimes socio-economic and political cohesiveness, while excluding the African majority, are some of the key issues which we touch in our research. It is an interesting historical research which people should look out for.

I can imagine, the longer you go back in time, the harder it gets to analyse who influenced the political process …

That was indeed one of our challenges. There is not much literature on the specific issues that we were looking for, so are heavily reliant on materials from the archives and media reports. Newspapers were particularly useful in giving up-to-date information on what was occurring at a particular time and what was said by a person even in direct quotes for example in Parliament. We have found this to be very valuable information that has filled important gaps in our research. Searching in archives to try to understand the situation at that time has been very useful and informative. From the 1950s onwards, the material is not that difficult to find. It is the post-First World War period that is a bit challenging. The other factor is that the apartheid government at some point had restrictions on research in areas concerning food and nutrition in African communities - there is a noticeable gap in information. This explains the reason why much literature on some aspects during some historical periods is not readily available. That made our research both difficult and enlightening at the same time and using historical material has made us to understand and appreciate a lot of dynamics that occurred historically in South Africa. Our work is in an advanced stage now, but we are refining some points. We are continuously going back and forth to the archives to make clarifications, follow up on some points. Luckily the archives are digitalised so travel restrictions have not impacted too negatively on this critical aspect of our research.

Clement Chipenda
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
In a podcast interview, Klaus Schlichte looks at the Covid-19 pandemic in African countries and the measures taken by governments.

"There are differences between countries, but repressive policies are the dominant ones," says Klaus Schlichte with regard to the governmental reactions to the spread of the novel corona virus in Africa. In many countries there are curfews, he says, which are massively enforced by the police, at least in the cities. What may seem necessary from an epidemiological point of view, however, also has negative consequences: "By stopping traffic, there are apparently already crises in the supply of food to the urban population," says Schlichte. If there were to be permanent increases in food prices, hunger riots would be a great danger. Even before the pandemic, many people in African cities could hardly afford food.

At present, the African continent seems to be comparatively little affected by the pandemic. This is due to the relatively low international mobility of the population. "But once the virus has reached the cities, it is likely to spread faster than in Europe, for example," says Schlichte. "Because people live closer together and have fewer retreat areas in the form of their own apartments or houses."

The poor data situation makes it difficult to predict how the pandemic will develop. One problem with the prognosis is that there is hardly any data on the spread of pre-existing conditions such as asthma and other respiratory diseases. "African societies are much younger than, say, European societies. There are comparatively few elderly people in whom Covid-19 is more likely to develop particularly severe conditions". This positive effect may be outweighed by the fact that there are many people who are malnourished and undernourished.

Economically, the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting African societies hard. Tourism, which is of great importance in the coastal regions, but also in the interior in the form of safaris, is experiencing a massive slump. "More important, however, is the decline in so-called remittances [i.e. money transfers from family members working in Europe, for example]. As a result, the most important source of foreign currency in African economies is collapsing." In total, the remittances are higher than the total development aid that African countries receive.

In the medium term, however, the Corona crisis could also have positive consequences: "It is possible that pressure on African governments will now increase," says Schlichte, "to spend more money on public health care and less on the military and police.

The podcast interview with Klaus Schlichte was conducted by Thomas Walli of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Innsbruck as part of the special series "Corona and Politics".

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67475

Alex Nadège Ouedraogo back at her improvised office in Brussels.
Alex Nadège Ouedraogo back at her improvised office in Brussels.
Once the shutdown was in place, Alex Nadège Ouedraogo had to terminate her research stay in southern Senegal and could only leave the country with a repatriation flight.

Hello Nadège, please tell me about your trip to Senegal.

I left Bremen on the 11th of March. I was supposed to stay in Senegal for a bit more than two weeks. The plan was to have some knowledge exchange with experts at the Assane Seck University of Ziguinchor in the south of Senegal and to conduct interviews with Senegalese security nets households beneficiaries. But this plan completely collapsed because of the Corona virus spreading.

Were you prepared for this scenario?

When I started from Bremen, Africa wasn't as affected as Europe. When I arrived everything was normal and then the situation changed quickly. On my third day, first COVID-19 cases were confirmed, and from there everything started to get crazy. Apparently a couple of French retired people being infected came back to Senegal where they actually now live. Much worse was the case of a Senegalese who returned from Italy to Touba. Touba is a religious city and this means that there are more interactions between people than in other cities due to collective sittings, meetings, prayers and so forth. From what people and the press said, he didn't mentioned that he came from Italy and he didn’t know about the virus which he spread to up to 70 people in a very short time according to press release. These soaring cases changed the situation very quickly. Before I realised, governments worldwide started to take drastic measures to limit the expansion of the virus. Airlines were cancelling flights, the Senegalese President Macky Sall took early on measures and shut down all schools and universities, forbid meetings, Friday prayer at mosques to avoid people gathering and so forth―many measures that led me to stay home and hoping to go back to Europe.

Does this mean that you could not talk to anyone at the universities?

I had planned to go to the Assane Seck university of Ziguinchor for one week, I was supposed to be a visiting researcher there. With everything going on, I contacted the head of the Sociology department with whom I arranged my visit to know what to do. He told me the university was about to be closed. Although it seems complicated, I decided to at least go to meet with one of the colleagues to discuss about our projects. In parallel to this university exchange I had planned to do some final data collection interviewing about ten families who benefit from safety net cash transfers. At some point, we agreed to cancel the interviews, because the families may be afraid to get in close contact with me who was coming from Europe where the corona virus was spread much wider. My stay in the south of Senegal, which was initially planned to last one week, was to be cut down to three days, but even that proved too optimistic with increasing displacement restrictions. On the very same day I arrived, I realised that I had to return to Dakar to catch a flight back home as soon as possible because around the world governments were closing the borders.

Getting a plane ticket must have been a lottery …

There were no flights at all, you couldn't book anything on the internet. Egencia was saturated, flights were offered on the website but you could not actually book any. I contacted several agencies to see what they could do for me - nothing. There was no information available, I felt kind of lost while in Europe people were already in lockdown. Once I managed to get back to Dakar, the borders were closed. All international flights in and out were stopped. I was stranded in Senegal.

What did you do then?

Together with my team and Irina we contacted different services (Egencia, airlines, MFA, German institutions in Dakar and so forth). They were always present and supporting. Since I am also a Belgian citizen, I contacted the Belgian embassy. They told me straight away that they were not going to organise anything. The same with the German embassy. Only the French apparently were organising repatriation flights and obviously those flights were fully booked at the minute they were out. There I was, not knowing when I will make it out of Senegal. This whole process took an entire week with emails and phone calls.

How did you get to leave the country then?

At the last minute, on Sunday the 22nd, I received an email from the Belgian embassy stating that they were organising a flight. I had to fill in some forms to apply for a ticket. On the very same night they sent a confirmation for the next day, 8 am. When I arrived, this huge airport was empty except for us and all the Belgian diplomats wearing masks and gloves.  We did not get any information and were only asked to line up, respecting 1,5 metres of distance to one another. There were apparently a couple of people without a ticket sitting with their luggage aside, the atmosphere was tense. But eventually I made it to Brussels. I couldn’t make it to Bremen, as there were no trains or flights. Here in Brussels I have to stay in isolation for 14 days.

Now you have lots of time for your thesis but not the data that you needed to collect in Senegal, right?

It is fine because I'm in the writing process right now. I'm doing a cumulative dissertation. I already started writing one article with Klaus Schlichte and there is another one that I have presented in November. So I'm busy with those papers that I have to submit. The problem is the lockdown situation here. I am here in a different environment to work and I am not used to this. I can work but it is not as efficient. I will still do my best to write those papers and to contribute to the project.

But what about the interviews you wanted conduct in Senegal?

Since one of my articles will be about social nets during election time, these interviews were kind of an evaluation or an after election information. I had already collected data during the election period and I wanted to integrate some post-election information into the last paper I am planning to write.  Apart from the family interviews on cash transfers I was supposed to conduct a round table at the University with some social policy experts that are working on food security. I was really expecting a lot of this. I was able to gather people from the sociology department and from national and international institutions that are locally grounded. It was disappointing that I couldn't present my work to them and discuss it in order to get to know what they think about my findings. This is disappointing because having more local grounded expertise would have really helped me with my writing.

Alex Nadège Ouedraogo
SFB members Kressen Thyen and Alex Veit will chair Section 39 at the 14th Pan-European Conference on International Relations.

Call for Papers: "The Politics of Internationalised Welfare" (S39)

European International Studies Association (EISA), 14th Pan-European Conference on International Relations, Msida, Malta, September 16 – 19, 2020

Proposal submission deadline: March 16, 2020
Section chairs: Alex Veit & Kressen Thyen (University of Bremen)

The call for papers is now open for "The Politics of Internationalised Welfare", Section 39 at the EISA-PEC, 16-19 September 2020.
Section 39: The Politics of Internationalised Welfare

In recent years, students of International Relations have increasingly paid attention to internationalised welfare as a relevant field of study. In contrast to the traditional welfare literature, which conceptualises social policy primarily as a domestic issue, this new branch of scholarship emphasises the influence and impact of global dynamics and international actors on social needs and welfare provision. However, different areas of international engagement, such as global health, social protection, or humanitarian aid, are often treated as separate fields of study.
In this section, we aim to bring these fields together and to analyse the fundamental questions linking them: How do international political structures—from colonialism to global governance—impact on welfare states around the globe? What influence do international and transnational actors have on the design, finance and provision of welfare systems? Which ideas and interests drive international involvement in welfare provision?

From the "age of empires" to the contemporary multilateral world, international authorities and actors have addressed social inequality, political grievances and environmental risks in different ways. This section seeks to highlight changes and continuities of internationalised welfare. It is therefore structured in a historical order that connects the past, present, and future.

With this call we are inviting paper proposals in particular relating to the following panels:

  • Imperial, Late Imperial and Post-Imperial Welfare Politics in the Global South
  • Welfare in the Post-colony: Between Popular Contention, Statebuilding and Internationalisation
  • Beyond Capital IR – Studying Social Questions in the Countryside
  • Climate Change and Poverty: Vulnerable Populations, Human Security & Social Justice

A more detailed description of the intended panels follows below.
Please submit your paper proposal through the EISA-PEC online platform. Submission guidelines are available here:

We look forward to receiving your proposals and to seeing you in Msida!
Alex & Kressen

Imperial, Late Imperial and Post-Imperial Welfare Politics in the Global South
Panel Chair: Roy Karadağ

This panel targets the imperial sources of internationalised welfare. It aims to bring together scholars who investigate and critically reflect upon the ideas, policy measures and practices of empires in identifying, problematizing and dealing with poverty, social crises and contestations from excluded groups across global peripheries. What were the features of this imperial wave of global social policy? Under which conditions did imperial politicians, bureaucrats and academics engage with teaching, healing and nurturing subject populations in colonies and protectorates? In which ways were these policies and practices themselves transformed in the late imperial years after the Second World War? What were the overall consequences for social policy making after decolonisation had finally materialised?
Organised around this set of questions, contributions ideally bridge the gap between themes of dependent development and the politics of empire, on the one hand, and of welfare statism and social policy, on the other hand. In particular, the goal is to theorise what the "imperial" is in "imperial social policy and welfare". Geographically, we invite papers that cover African, Middle Eastern and Asian contexts of imperial rule. With regard to policy fields, papers may cover anything from education, health, food, labour, pensions, housing and social assistance schemes. Contributions may render the multi-sited and multi-causal nature of imperial policy making visible, for example by investigating the various imperial justifications of policies and regulations, and the contestations they produced both within and beyond the respective imperial institutions.

Welfare in the Post-colony: Between Popular Contention, Statebuilding and Internationalisation
Panel Chairs: Kressen Thyen & Alex Veit

This panel interrogates postcolonial welfare states in the Global South as processes and products of entanglement between domestic and transnational political configurations.
On the national level, public welfare connects state organizations and social groups. It may increase state legitimacy, but also trigger new demands. It addresses social inequality, but also manifests group privileges. It symbolises nationhood and provides vision, but also exposes gaps between ambition and implementation. Geographically, welfare bureaucracies embody the state in the most remote village, but also reproduce urban-rural divides. Welfare administrative knowledge is the backbone of planning for the public good, but such data can also be used as a tool of control and repression. In sum, welfare provision creates colourful, often contradictory bonds between states and populations.
At the same time, welfare states of the Global South are transnational configurations. The design, finance, and provision of welfare is a transnational process in which international organisations, bilateral donors, transnational NGOs, religious organisations and expert communities are centrally involved. While such international involvement arguably creates a "global social policy" in its infancy, it also renders concepts of sovereignty, citizenship, democracy, accountability, entitlement, and durability highly precarious. This fundamentally puts into question previous assumptions on welfare state formation.
To address these processes of entanglement between transnational and domestic configurations, we invite papers addressing or relating to the following questions: How can we conceptualise welfare in the Global South? How does internationalisation impact on everyday patterns of legitimation and contestation? In what ways did neoliberalism and structural adjustments disrupt postcolonial welfare politics? Where do countervailing ideas emerge against dominant welfare approaches?

Beyond Capital IR – Studying Social Questions in the Countryside
Panel Chairs: Klaus Schlichte & Anna Wolkenhauer

A lot is going on in the countryside. In recent years, Sociology, Development Studies and Political Science have paid renewed attention to rural areas for a number of reasons. Deteriorating food security, increasingly frequently felt impacts of climate change, and a growing awareness of sustainability issues have put farmers back at the centre of attention.
Practices like land-grabbing, the depletion of natural resources, food insecurity or huge gaps in public service delivery seem to fuel forms of opposition that have hitherto rather been ignored by “capital IR”. This panel aims at interrogating social questions that specifically address rural areas, rural populations and internationalised politics targeting them. This can include social policies, rural development, food policies or other schemes geared by “the will to improve” (Tanya Li). While locally effective, state and non-state policies are embedded in a global system of development initiatives, governance structures, trade rules, and political representation more widely. We are convinced that IR is well-advised not to ignore the connections between rural change and international structures – historical and contemporary.
This panel invites contributions related to the following or related questions: How are structural transformations in the countryside addressed by (internationalised) welfare? How have state retrenchment and a neoliberal redefinition of social policy affected rural areas? How are social and political questions related in the countryside; do welfare and political representation interact? What potential do food security interventions hold for social inclusion and transformation?

Climate Change and Poverty: Vulnerable Populations, Human Security & Social Justice

Panel Chair: Simon Chin-Yee

Climate change plays an increasingly important role in discussions of poverty, human security and socio-economic risks. Vulnerable populations are increasingly susceptible to weather shocks, desertification, sea level rise and conflicts which can lead to poverty traps. Sustained eradication of poverty will depend on many socio-economic conditions, including access to health care, education and economic growth. Climate change impacts on poverty exponentially as vulnerable populations are more exposed to its effects and have less capacity to adapt or react to natural disasters. Additionally, climate change is increasingly seen as a threat multiplier further exacerbating impacts on human security. These are human rights and climate justice issues.
This panel seeks to examine how changing environmental conditions are impacting vulnerable populations with an eye to the future, answering questions such as: How can vulnerable communities avoid falling into the poverty trap? How do populations cope when experiencing negative shocks in multiple channels simultaneously? What responsibility does the global climate regime have to address issues of human rights and vulnerable populations? To what extent are climate related risks addressed by internationalised social policy-making?


Section Chairs are Alex Veit ( and Kressen Thyen (, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS), CRC Global Dynamics of Social Policy, University of Bremen, Germany.

For further information related to the submission process please contact

Dr. Kressen Thyen
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58515

Dr. Alex Veit