Lack of access to health care for African indigents: a social exclusion perspective

W. Soors, F. Dkhimi, B. Criel

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BACKGROUND: Lack of access to health care is a persistent condition for most African indigents, to which the common technical approach of targeting initiatives is an insufficient antidote. To overcome the standstill, an integrated technical and political approach is needed. Such policy shift is dependent on political support, and on alignment of international and national actors. We explore if the analytical framework of social exclusion can contribute to the latter. METHODS: We produce a critical and evaluative account of the literature on three themes: social exclusion, development policy, and indigence in Africa--and their interface. First, we trace the concept of social exclusion as it evolved over time and space in policy circles. We then discuss the relevance of a social exclusion perspective in developing countries. Finally, we apply this perspective to Africa, its indigents, and their lack of access to health care. RESULTS: The concept of social exclusion as an underlying process of structural inequalities has needed two decades to find acceptance in international policy circles. Initial scepticism about the relevance of the concept in developing countries is now giving way to recognition of its universality. For a variety of reasons however, the uptake of a social exclusion perspective in Africa has been limited. Nevertheless, social exclusion as a driver of poverty and inequity in Africa is evident, and manifestly so in the case of the African indigents. CONCLUSION: The concept of social exclusion provides a useful framework for improved understanding of origins and persistence of the access problem that African indigents face, and for generating political space for an integrated approach.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number91
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Health systems
  • Accessibility
  • Health care
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Poverty
  • Social security
  • Social impact
  • Community protection
  • Health policy
  • Review of the literature
  • Africa-General


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