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Powerful new evidence on the impact of cash transfer programmes in Africa

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Cash transfers have expanded dramatically in the last two decades, becoming key tools for social protection and economic empowerment in developing countries. Until now the rise of cash has been fueled by evidence drawn mostly from conditional cash models in Latin America.

In the new book, From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa, leading researchers provide compelling new evidence about the effectiveness of unconditional cash transfers—direct and predictable transfers without strings attached to specific behavioral changes—in Africa.

The book documents the impressive rise of social protection initiatives in the region over the last decade and highlights experiences of implementing cash transfer programmes in eight sub-Saharan African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

“Cash transfers are not only a social intervention but they also contribute to transforming livelihoods and make local economies more dynamic,” says FAO’s Ben Davis, Strategic Programme Leader, Rural Poverty Reduction.

“By providing poor households with cash, these programmes also stimulate local demand for goods and services, generating multiplier effects and bolstering local economies.”

From Evidence to Action, a joint UNICEF-FAO partnership on impact evaluation of national cash transfer programmes, showcases new, rigorous and timely evidence demonstrating the far-reaching impacts of unconditional cash transfers on the well-being of African children, families and communities. A significant portion of the evidence presented in the volume is based on field research conducted by UNICEF Innocenti.

“This book is about how to use the evidence generated by impact evaluations to inform and improve policy and programme design, implementation and scale up, in order to increase the positive impact on people’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa,” FAO’s Senior Social Protection Officer Natalia Winder-Rossi explains.

Evidence points to significant impact of unconditional cash transfers on school enrollment, health, food security, and agricultural investment, without necessarily leading to undesirable behaviors such as dependency – a prevailing concern among policy makers.

Over the last decade, collaboration among national policy makers, development partners and researchers has led to the expansion of cash transfer programmes and social protection policies across the sub-Saharan Africa region. Most importantly, it has supported the idea that giving cash to the poorest and most vulnerable children, families and communities is a worthwhile investment in their nations' own future.

Scheduled From Evidence to Action book launch events will be held in:

  • New York, September 22: Editors will present insights and findings at the 8th SPIAC-B Meeting 
  • Johannesburg, November 15: Government Representatives and UN Programme Staff will take part in a Mail & Guardian “Critical Thinking Forum”.
  • On social media, follow all the book events and discussions at: #Ev2Act
  • The Transfer Project is a group of researchers and practitioners from UNICEF, FAO, University of North Carolina and Save the Children UK collaborating to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa is edited by: Benjamin Davis, Sudhanshu Handa, Nicola Hypher, Natalia Winder Rossi, Paul Winters, and Jennifer Yablonski. Oxford University Press.
  • The book can be ordered online through Oxford University Press or Amazon
(21 September 2016)