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DFID research: Exploring the Impact of Cash Transfers in Africa

Evidence from countries that cash transfers can reduce inequality and the depth or severity of poverty.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

There is convincing evidence from a number of countries that cash transfers can reduce inequality and the depth or severity of poverty. The Transfer Project, a collaborative project involving FAO, UNICEF, Save the Children UK and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partnership with national governments, research partners and civil society, is exploring their impact across Africa.

Transferring resources directly to poor people in the form of cash, food, vouchers or free or subsidised access to goods and services is attractive for many reasons. Direct, regular and predictable transfers of small sums of money to the poor have the potential to empower in productive and life-improving ways. Cash empowers people living in poverty to make their own decisions on how to improve their lives. There is robust evidence from numerous countries that cash transfers have leveraged sizeable gains in access to health and education services, while stopping short of improving final outcomes in these sectors to date.

DFID’s recently published Literature Review on Cash Transfers show that while the evidence base for cash transfers is better than for many other policy areas, it is also uneven. Unanswered questions include how, why and in what contexts social transfer programmes are most appropriate and effective. Less is known about some instruments (public works) and outcomes in certain regions (sub-Saharan Africa).

The Transfer Project is an innovative research and learning initiative which supports improved knowledge and practice on social transfers in Africa in several key areas:

  1. Support to national longitudinal quantitative and qualitative impact evaluation in the region - to help us understand not only what impacts cash transfers are achieving, but also how and why.
  2. Cross-regional analysis to draw thematic and operational lessons based on the diversity of social transfer programmes in the region.
  3. Creating mechanisms for regional learning & exchange among regional policy makers, implementers, researchers and civil society - through workshops, web resources, public data availability, and publications.

Its second annual workshop on Evaluating the Impact of Cash Transfer Programs in sub-Saharan Africa, held over three days in Kenya in February, presented findings from recent work across sub-Saharan Africa. Participants discussed innovative questionnaire items and research hypotheses, and identified ways to enhance the link between research results and actionable policy recommendations.

For more information visit the Transfer Project page on the UNC Website.

Updates to this page

Published 13 April 2012