ECONOMIC DISCOURSES OF DISABILITY IN AFRICA: AN OVERVIEW OF LAY AND LEGISLATIVE NARRATIVES
Keywords:Africa, economic discourses of disability, persons with disabilities, employment challenges, independence of persons with disabilities
The article presents the dominant economic discourses of disability in Africa cutting across both charity and medical models. Within such discourses, persons with disabilities are depicted as unproductive and as dependents of the welfare system, and by extension, as dependents of non-disabled tax payers or non-disabled benefactors. This perceived dependence is fuelled by the vicious nexus between poverty and disability where poverty triggers disability and disability in turn leads to further impoverishment. The article also discusses the pros and cons of economic policy instruments that aim to economically empower persons with disabilities, including by increasing the demand for disabled workers via financial and tax-related incentives to employers. It focuses, in relatively greater detail, on the dilemmas facing persons with disabilities in accessing social welfare at the risk of facing discrimination by the disability-insensitive public. The article discusses the employment challenges faced by and opportunities presented to persons with disabilities, including in the area of self-employment and entrepreneurship. The latter is related, amongst others, to efficiency/productivity and human capital considerations that underlie investments in education, which might exclude children with disabilities from education services now and in the future from employment opportunities later in youth and adulthood. The article suggests a shift in both mindset and practice away from charity/economic dependence discourses to an independent living paradigm, where the focus is on the socioeconomic self-reliance and independence of persons with disabilities.