Poverty alleviation, development, and social work practice in West Africa

A focus on Senegal

Authored by: Jessica H. Jönsson

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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This chapter explores social work practice in West Africa using Senegal as an example. It employs a critical postcolonial perspective to analyse the changes development has wrought. It begins with a discussion of development and its discontents within the postcolonial context of multiple modernities, neoliberal globalisation, and poverty alleviation policies. It notes the consequent weakening role of the state in direct service provision through structural adjustment; greater reliance on traditional solidarity and civil society organisations; and increasing alliances between international aid partners and national and local nongovernment organisations (NGOs). It argues that these forces have generated conflicts of interest with, and negative consequences for, local communities. The uncritical celebration of NGOs pandering to elite national and international agencies whose interest do not coincide with those of local communities is tantamount to non-development and leads to questions as to whether development aid is indeed aimed at poverty alleviation. Thereafter, the discussion moves to development politics and social work’s Global Agenda before turning attention to social work practice in West-African countries. It is argued that without a critical perspective on the ongoing colonisation of African minds, social work perpetuates inappropriate Western models. Hence, the profession must look to new horizons for inclusive African social work practice responding appropriately to local concerns.

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