Social research for transformative social policy making in Africa: what is to be done?
Social work research and social policy in Africa are grossly subordinated to political and economic imperatives. Discourse and practice of social work research and social policy on the continent hardly challenge political and economic ideologies that perpetuate oppression, exploitation, injustice and the disadvantaged. Social work research and social policy remain reactionary, residual and palliative in approach. To bring this discussion into perspective, this paper considers findings of a study that was conducted in Botswana, which sought to assess the usefulness of social research and enhance the capacity of policy makers to develop evidence-informed policies. A cross-sectional descriptive research design was adopted using in-depth face to face interviews and a total sample of 30 respondents was interviewed. The findings provide new information on public servants’ policy skills and their attitudes to non-government sources of expert evidence and knowledge, and their perceptions of the relevance of scholarly social research. This paper argues that for social work research to meaningfully address social challenges in Africa, it must be grounded in ‘Ubuntu’, structural approach and reappraise its social policy curriculum to give it radical-transformative dimensions. Both the structural approach to social work research and transformative social policy recognize that political, economic and social objectives are inextricably linked and have strong ideological underpinnings.