The negotiations of Zambia’s welfare regime

Maria Klara Kuss, UNU-MERIT

The great paradox of international development is the persistence of poverty despite half a century of development and anti-poverty efforts, volumes of positive impact studies, and the expenditure of unspeakable amounts of resources. Poverty reduction has been declared the central goal of international development, and yet many development endeavours have largely failed to transform the lives of poor people in developing countries in Africa and beyond. This dissertation unravels this paradox by dismantling the complex relations and dynamics that reproduce poverty and provide limits to forces for change. This is done by offering a detailed examination of the political settlement process of Zambia’s welfare regime through a multilevel analysis of the policy process of Zambia’s first National Social Cash Transfer scheme.


Theoretically, the dissertation advances a distinctive understanding of the development and settlement process based on a critical engagement with the welfare regime approach for developing countries and the constructivist institutionalist perspective. The proposed theoretical framework goes beyond simplistic assumptions about change and takes account of the ideas and the institutional context which influence the evolving negotiations of welfare regimes and inexorably interplay with development and policy reform efforts. The application of this framework to the policy process around social protection in Zambia generates novel insights into the interactions between a range of actors situated in political and policy processes who have certain beliefs and power positions. The analysis reveals how Zambia’s development practice and neopatrimonial dynamics depoliticised, overlooked, and resisted competing sets of beliefs in order to maintain prevailing power relations. It argues that precisely the lack of politicization and problematisation entrenches poverty and adversity for women and children in Zambia. The analysis suggests that exposing the clashes of beliefs, and the power relations between actors are key requirements to sustain progressive efforts and transform poverty.

Venue: Online:

Date: 08 November 2022

Time: 13:00 - 14:30