Social Policy


Social budgeting

Social protection


Cash transfers

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1382/Pirozzi
Alphonsine, 13, cooks outside the house where she, her cousins and her aunt and uncle live in the town of Gisenyi, Rwanda.

Cash transfers, small predictable sums of money given to ultra poor families with children, are a relatively new Social Protection strategy in Eastern and Southern Africa to alleviate household poverty, showing positive results throughout the region.

International development agencies and governments have begun to rely increasingly on cash transfers to households for a number of reasons:

  • Traditional Social Protection interventions such as price subsidies, food based safety nets and public works, have not proved to be particularly efficient mechanisms for transferring income to the poor and are not well suited for the chronically poor  who require long-term predictable social assistance arrangements.

  • Cash transfers on the other hand allow for more efficient and effective support in emergency and long-term response situations marked by repeated shocks and/or chronic poverty.

  • Cash transfers also call attention to disparities between the poor and the poorest of the poor, and help place the latter at the centre of the Social Policy agenda.

  • They are also more cost-effective and easier and faster to distribute than food aid or building materials.

© UNICEF Malawi/2010/Bloemen
Rozina Chimbalani, 77, who receives a cash transfer grant in Malawi, used some of money to buy a pig. It has now given birth to six piglets, multiplying her investment.

UNICEF in action

UNICEF supports cash transfer programmes in 14 countries in the region.

Together with Save the Children UK and the University of North Carolina, UNICEF also supports the Transfer Project, a research initiative that examines the impact of government-sponsored social cash transfer programmes in several sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Lesotho, Zambia and South Africa.

Results for children

The benefits of cash transfer programmes have been widely documented around the world, and increasingly so in sub Saharan Africa. Cash transfers can immediately improve income and reduce overall inequality and poverty.

South Africa introduced a Child Support Grant (CSG) in 1998. It has become South Africa’s largest social assistance programme, covering 9 million children. Originally limited to children under the age of 7 years, the programme is now available for children up to 17 years of age. Eligible primary caregivers receive a monthly support of about US$28 per child. As a result of such cash transfer programmes, which also include old age pensions, the income of the poorest 5 percent of the population in South Africa has increased by 50 percent. Further, a study of the Child Support Grant showed that these programmes have a positive impact on the nutritional status and the growth of children.

In Kenya, the Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) programme was first introduced in 2004 with the support of UNICEF and other partners such as the World Bank, DFID, SIDA and DANIDA. To qualify for the programme, a household must be poor, have orphans or vulnerable children under 18 years of age, and should not receive other benefits in cash or in kind. In 2010, the programme reached over 250,000 people in approximately 90,000 households with about US$20 per month. By 2013, the programme will be extended to 150,000 households. It has had a significant impact on the level of food consumption and dietary diversity, leading to increased consumption of fish, meat and milk.

The Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) reaches around 100,000 beneficiaries in 25,000 households with a variable benefit of on average US$14 per household. It led to an increase in school enrolment and a reduction of child labour. Overall absenteeism from school declined.



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