Human Inclusion as Capability Expansion

Macculi, Iris (2016). 'Human Inclusion as Capability Expansion' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract Despite two decades of remarkable and sustained economic growth, Africa is still struggling to translate its economic gains into positive social outcomes. Rising incomes have often gone hand in hand in rising inequality – undermining the efforts made by many countries to reduce poverty, and fuelling social and economic instability in the region. The structural transformation under way on the continent – largely driven by capital-intensive sectors – has not created sufficient and decent jobs to be able to lift many individuals from poverty and vulnerability. Unequal access to social and economic opportunities as well as inadequate social protection have also limited the capacity of individuals to both contribute and benefit from economic growth.   In line with Africa’s aspirations of “leaving no one behind”, this paper discusses the African Social Development Index (ASDI), a tool developed by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), to assess progress in the reduction of human exclusion across different groups of population and dimensions of development, including survival, health, education, employment, means of subsistence and life expectancy. By adopting a life-cycle approach, the tool builds on the premise that development should be reflected in improved human conditions. One of the key features of the index is that it can be measured across time and disaggregated by gender and location, helping to capture patterns of inequality and exclusion within and between countries. As such, the ASDI offers a new conceptual framework for identifying the drivers of human exclusion in Africa and linking them to better policies in nutrition, education, employment and social protection. The paper further expands the application and relevance of the ASDI within the Sen’s Capability Approach. In this context, human exclusion is seen as capability deprivation, and each dimension of the ASDI defined as a set of individual functionings (“doing and beings”) that people have reason to value. Issues of agency and freedom, and the interconnections between the different dimensions of exclusion are also discussed. The paper shows how the capability approach can provide a relevant base for analyzing human exclusion in the context of Africa, with a view to expand individual capabilities and choices, and promote a more inclusive and transformative human development in the continent. 

scroll to top