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Social Cash Transfers in Africa: Scaling-up and Innovating

This new series of publications captures the recent developments in social protection programmes in Africa

Brasília, 16 April, 2015 – What does wearable technology have to do with social cash transfer programmes in a poor, remote area of an African country? A lot, indeed. An innovative payment system implemented in Ethiopia sees government agents using Android smartphones with an integrated Near Field Communication (NFC) reader technology to provide monthly cash payments to families covered by the Tigray Social Cash Transfer Programme (TSCTP). Each household receive an NFC wristband containing a personal identification number (PIN) that can only be read by the agent’s smartphone and is not made visible on the wristband itself.

Ethiopia’s experience along with the successful experiences of Kenya and Zambia in scaling-up their social cash transfer programmes are the themes of the three new One Pagers (OPs) that will be published by the IPG-IG this month.

African experiences – Social cash transfers are not new to the African continent. Many countries, especially in southern Africa, like Botswana and South Africa, have long-standing social cash transfers such as old age pensions, disability grants and child allowances. Some of these countries inherited such schemes from the welfare system implemented during colonial times; however, since the gaining of independence, such programmes have expanded and become more inclusive. At the present time, many more countries are developing and scaling up social cash transfers.

Since the early 2000s there has been a surge of social cash transfer programmes implemented by national governments in countries that previously did not have any. In the past, cash transfers tended to be temporary responses to emergencies such as floods, droughts and conflicts and in many cases relying on temporary cash for work interventions. This reality has changed with the new wave of social cash transfer programmes.

Zambia: A vehicle, part of the scale up in the field

Zambia: A vehicle, part of the scale up in the field

During the meeting of the Community of Practice (CoP) on Cash Transfers and Conditional Cash Transfer programmes of African countries[i] last November in Livingstone, Zambia, representatives from Kenya, Tanzania and the host country Zambia shared their experiences in the scaling-up of social cash transfers with other countries that are members of the CoP. Their experiences have attracted considerable attention. Much can be learned from their programmes’ trajectories and evolutions from pilot interventions in some areas of the countries to full-fledged programmes with national coverage.

In this same meeting, country-members of the CoP also shared their experiences in innovating several features of their social cash transfer schemes in order to overcome constraints and/or to foster integration with other social sector policies. Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique were the countries that received most of the fellow countries’ attention with regard to their respective innovations. Ethiopia shared its experience with a PIN number-free device to process electronic payments to beneficiaries–who are mostly illiterate and struggle with the need to memorize a PIN number; Kenya shared its experience with e-payments and Mozambique presented a booklet for social assistance as a tool to track social service referrals offered to cash transfer beneficiaries.

Kenya: Winnie Mwasiaji presenting a poster on e-payments during the CoP meeting in Livingstone

Kenya: Winnie Mwasiaji presenting a poster on e-payments during the CoP meeting in Livingstone

The three new OPs released by IPC-IG this month were written based on the exchanges that took place in the CoP meeting in Livingstone. They refer to the scaling-up experiences of Kenya and Zambia and to the innovative payment system implemented in Ethiopia. These One Pagers were written by each country’s programme managers, who are responsible for their adequate implementation. They reflect upon the challenges encountered and the solutions found to ensure that these programmes are adequately implemented, financed and scaled-up. The main objective of these One Pagers is to promote knowledge sharing among African countries. Moreover, they intend to inform the world-wide community of policymakers, practitioners and researchers about the latest developments of social cash transfers in Africa. As such, these publications will be released in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge.


We would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors: Winnie Mwasiaji from the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services from Kenya; Stanfield Michelo from the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health from Zambia; and the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs of Tigray from Ethiopia for taking their time to share their experiences with us.

We also would like to thank our colleagues from UNICEF: Catalina Gomez, Yves Dublin, Paul Ufford and Joanne Bosworth for their tireless support in helping us produce these One Pagers.

Download full publications and translations:

KenyaEnglish French Spanish Portuguese

ZambiaEnglish French Spanish Portuguese

EthiopiaEnglish French Spanish Portuguese


[i] In an effort to share lessons and experiences between countries with Cash Transfer and Conditional Cash Transfer interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa CTs and CCTs Community of Practice (CoP) was launched in 2011. The objective of the CoP is to facilitate knowledge exchange between CoP member countries that are interested in improving the design and operations of their CT and CCT programmes as part of integrated social protection systems. The COP is facilitated by the World Bank, UNICEF and the IPC-IG.

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)

Short URL: http://pressroom.ipc-undp.org/?p=16919

Posted by on Apr 16 2015. Filed under Development Innovations, Featured News, Inclusive Growth, Inclusive Growth around the world, News, Partners, Slider, Social Protection. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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