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Cash Transfers in Africa Lead Global Research and Policy Development

17 Jun 2014
children playing on a see-saw in south africa
Social protection programmes based on cash transfers for the most vulnerable families and children are rapidly spreading across Africa. According to Sudhanshu Handa, Chief of Social and Economic Policy at the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, there are now 120 social protection programmes in almost every country in Africa, with about 30 long term programmes based on cash transfers.

"Just in the last few years there’s been a mushrooming of activity," Dr. Handa said in a recent interview with Bloomberg News.This can be a critical part of an inclusive growth strategy: There’s less inequality and less social instability."

Cash transfers are direct cash payments provided to the materially deprived and poor, primarily families. The main objective of these programs is to increase real income in the most vulnerable households.

Dr. Handa spoke recently at the African Union Consultation on Children and Social Protection held in Capetown, South Africa, and emphasized that African policy makers no longer need to look outside of their continent to find good long term examples of cash transfer programmes that can provide relevant evidence.

Sudhanshu Handa, is a lead researcher in a global partnership to evaluate the impact of cash transfers on the most vulnerable families. The Transfer Project brings together UNICEF, FAO, Save the Children and the University of North Carolina in a unique effort to help African governments create better policies and programmes by undertaking long term, multi country impact evaluation research focusing on innovation and learning on social cash transfers. "Currently there are 19 rigorous evaluations of government cash transfers in Africa, now making it the region with the most accumulated evidence on the impact of these programs in the world," said Handa. "In a year or two, once these studies are complete the world will look to Africa for the most up-to-date and innovative evidence on the range of possible impacts of cash transfers on children and families."

Cash transfer programmes are sparking important social gains in food security, school attendance and promotion of young people’s safe transition to adulthood. With many African economies seeing accelerated economic growth there is a compelling need for high quality, longitudinal studies to generate improved evidence for social protection policy planners.

Support for establishing an evidence base for public investments in cash transfers is a major research priority of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. The Transfer Project is currently conducting cash transfer research in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Dr. Handa is also featured as a guest expert in the Center for Global Development’s debate Cash Transfers: The New Benchmark for Foreign Aid?