About the Conference

The Social Policy in Africa Conference is a biennial scholarly gathering to reflect on the dynamics of social policy in Africa, although open to global reflections on social policy. The conference is a flagship activity of the South African Research Chair in Social Policy at the College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa. The Chair is part of the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) funded by the South African National Department of Science and Innovation and administered by the National Research Foundation. The inaugural conference was held in November 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Since its inception, the Social Policy in Africa Conference has been co-sponsored by the South African Research Chair in Social Policy, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). The late Professor Thandika Mkandawire is the thread that holds the three partners together in the idea of Transformative Social Policy. The concept evolved in the research projects that Thandika initiated, first as the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA in the mid-1990s. A Deputy Executive Secretary of CODESRIA at the time, Tade Akin Aina coordinated the CODESRIA research network on Globalization and Social Policy in Africa. As Director of UNRISD, Thandika broadened and led the research project as Social Policy in a Development Context. Jimi Adesina (who holds the South African Research Chair in Social Policy) was an External Research Coordinator at UNRISD, responsible for coordinating the Sub-Saharan Africa segment of the global research project. The findings from the Sub-Saharan research project were published as Social Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa: In Search of Inclusive Development (2007, Palgrave Macmillan). The Transformative Social Policy framework underpins our work at the South African Research Chair in Social Policy.

The 2021 edition of the conference is the third in the series (following from the 2017 and 2019 conferences). The edition of the conference is under the theme Development, Democracy, and Social Policy: Remembering Thandika Mkandawire to honour the memory and intellectual legacy of Thandika, whose vision of social policy continues to inspire our works at the South African Research Chair, CODESRIA, and UNRISD. Thandika passed away on 27 March 2020.