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The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa

Dakar Transfer Project Workshop: The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa

7 June 2017 - 9 June 2017
Dakar workshop 2017 3

(23 May 2017) There is more evidence now than ever before that cash transfers can empower families to improve their lives. In Africa, cash transfers are rapidly expanding as a key social protection tool for reducing chronic poverty and hunger and increasing investment in human capital. After nearly a decade, policymakers, researchers and staff from UN Agencies and NGOs will come together next month in Dakar, Senegal to discuss the evidence, share their experiences and look to new ways forward.

The 2017 workshop, “The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa,” will take place from June 7-9, for the first time hosted in Francophone West Africa. The nearly 125 participants from 30 countries across the African region and beyond will gather with the objectives of:

  1. Increasing awareness of cross-regional evidence
  2. Identifying gaps for future research
  3. Making evidence-based recommendations for governments to improve design, implementation and integration of cash transfer programmes.

The workshop comes on the heels of a recently published book highlighting the Transfer Project experience of social protection stakeholders working together to improve cash transfers. The authors reveal that one of the key components of successful cash transfers in Africa has been the transparency of knowledge sharing that occurs in the region – the upcoming workshop reinforces the strong collaboration among policymakers, development partners and researchers as they work together to improve policy, implementation and evaluation. Participants joining this year’s workshop will share the most up-to-date evidence on social, economic and productive impacts, continue to dispel myths, and address current challenges. In addition, it will feature presentations on innovative topics around targeting, fragile settings, mobile payments and local economy impacts, challenging participants to think more creatively about the next generation of programming and evaluation potential.

George Okech, FAO Representative, Zambia

The Dakar meeting happens at a strategic time when social protection initiatives – especially cash transfers – continue to gain steam throughout the world. Giving cash has been shown as an effective strategy in developing contexts and is being scaled-up in humanitarian and fragile settings. Additionally, albeit controversially, governments are experimenting with the idea of providing a universal basic income in industrialized countries as well.

By taking the opportunity to debate, discuss and reflect on topics such as “cash plus” and others, stakeholders will advance their knowledge, be more equipped to make evidence-informed decisions and improve the implementation and the scale-up of social protection strategies. The Transfer Project offers just one example of a platform that provides space for honest discussions about the successes and challenges of cash transfers, while pushing the boundaries to explore alternative large-scale options that hold potential for being effective. By providing participants with practical and actionable recommendations, the workshop demonstrates how experts can come together to effectively exchange information and work on research uptake to improve the lives of children and their families and contribute to the realization of global development goals.

However, experts will tell you that giving cash is not a “silver bullet” - it is one tool in a social protection package. One of the many topics that will discussed is the latest research on the potential of linking cash to services in the social, health and agricultural sectors, for example. These more comprehensive social protection packages being initiated by governments are known as “cash plus” interventions. As George Okech, FAO Representative in Zambia, describes: "We have realized that there are (anti-poverty) programmes that run parallel. If two different programmes are targeting the same community and they talk to one another, you get more benefits. So, these are things that can be improved; that’s why we need to have some coordination efforts…linking two or three programmes together (can have) a catalytic effect.” As social protection initiatives evolve, researchers will need to investigate how and to what extent cash plus programmes have greater effects than programmes operating separately in the most vulnerable communities.

2016 Transfer Project Workshop Participants, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Stay tuned for more information on the exciting activities in Dakar! Follow the event on social media: #TPDakar17 You can also view highlights from the 2016 workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti Youtube Channel: In English or in French.

Since 2008, UNICEF has partnered with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Save the Children UK through the Transfer Project to gather rigorous evidence on national cash transfers throughout the region.

Related Articles

Cash transfers key to tackling poverty and hunger in Africa

Cash transfers key to tackling poverty and hunger in Africa

(5 November 2016) Social cash transfers are enabling some of Africa’s poorest families to substantially increase food consumption and increase school enrollment, new evidence from UNICEF Innocenti and its partners shows.  In a new book, From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluations in Sub-Saharan Africa - launched in Johannesburg on November 15 – UNICEF, FAO, and other partners showcase the impacts cash transfer programmes have had in eight Sub-Saharan countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).“Cash transfers are enabling the poorest families to substantially increase food consumption and improve overall food security,” said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, Regional Director for UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa.“While cash alone is not enough to solve all problems, it is increasingly helping families avoid negative coping strategies, such as taking children out of school, or selling off assets.”At the “Critical Thinking Forum,” organized by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper to launch the book, government and UN representatives discussed what’s working and what challenges remain with national social protection programmes across the region.Evidence shows how there is an increase in secondary school enrollment as a result of cash transfers which allow families to purchase school uniforms and other supplies. Evidence shows that cash transfers did not result in increased expenditure on alcohol and tobacco – a commonly held concern. In Zambia, evidence showed an increase of farmland and expenditure on hired labour by 36 per cent. A significant portion of the evidence presented in the book is based on research conducted in the field by UNICEF Innocenti.The new evidence finds that government-run cash transfer programmes are expanding across the continent, with national social protection strategies often including a cash component. While cash transfers in Africa tend to be provided unconditionally (direct and predictable transfers without strings attached), many countries do include programme messaging to encourage school enrolment and periodic health and nutrition checks for children.For several years, there have been concerns that beneficiaries would waste money as a result of the cash transfers, however UNICEF and FAO gathered evidence across a ten year period through the Transfer Project, which clearly indicates that the majority of recipients are utilising cash transfers to better the living standards of their families, especially children.Gathered evidence has also fostered strong collaboration among policymakers, development partners and researchers and led to improved social cash transfer policies and practices in Africa.Watch the video below to see how researchers are measuring the impact of cash transfers reducing child malnutrition in Ghana.
The Transfer Project international workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Transfer Project international workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

(23 February 2016) With increasing global attention on social protection and cash transfer programmes, Innocenti’s major strategic partner, the Transfer Project, will convene an important international workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this April. The meeting will bring together national governments, research institutions and international organizations to discuss latest developments on cash transfer programmes in Africa. Since 2008, the Transfer Project has accumulated a critical mass of evidence on the multiple impacts of government run, cash transfers in Africa. Many governments have scaled-up programmes, raising important new questions on policy and implementation. By bringing together stakeholders to share in-depth experiences, the Transfer Project workshop will provide an unusual opportunity to discuss lessons learned and look at new ways for moving forward. The 6th – 8th April 2016 workshop will enter a new frontier for the Transfer Project, with the scope of topics and geographic focus broader than years before. Past events have been dedicated to cash transfer policy, implementation and evaluation; but this year, sessions will also cover programme designs that link cash to additional essential social services, known as “social protection plus” or “cash-plus” models. Discussions will be held on planned or initial impact evaluations, as well as emerging findings, methodological gaps and unanswered questions around cash-plus livelihoods, agriculture interventions and nutrition. This is also the first year the workshop will highlight case studies and cash transfer evaluation experiences from Asia. The UNICEF Ethiopia Country Office will host the event, with Transfer Project partners from across UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Save the Children UK and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill leading various sessions. Among the approximately 50 invited participants include government partners implementing and evaluating cash transfer programmes, and other social protection experts from academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and international development agencies.For more information on the workshop results, and to access agenda and presentations go to the Transfer Project website: https://transfer.cpc.unc.edu/ (click here to access past meetings and events).For the most up-to-date information on Transfer Project research and the workshop, be sure to follow on Twitter @TransferProjct and Facebook www.facebook.com/TransferProject  

Research Projects

Social protection and cash transfers
Research Project

Social protection and cash transfers

OverviewSocial protection has significant positive impacts for poor and vulnerable children and their families. As governments seek to reach international targets on eliminating poverty, social protection is increasingly being adopted to reduce deprivation and improve the lives of children and families. Rigorous evidence is required to inform and strengthen the design, financing and sustainability of child-sensitive social protection systems. UNICEF Innocenti generates multi-country evidence on the impacts of social protection programmes, especially cash transfers and integrated programmes (cash-plus), on the wellbeing of children and families in development and humanitarian settings. Our research also examines the gender and shock responsiveness of social protection programmes; the role of design and implementation in the effectiveness of cash transfers and integrated programmes; and the political economy, financing and sustainability of statutory social protection systems.Goal To generate high-quality evidence that helps countries establish integrated, domestically financed, effective and statutory social protection systems.ApproachWe work in close collaboration with governments, UNICEF country offices, national and international research partners to generate multi-country evidence on the impacts of social cash transfers and the pathways of change through rigorous mixed-methods impact evaluations. We conduct political economy analysis of social protection systems and use micro and macro data to assess the affordability, financing and effectiveness of social protection policies and programmes. We provide technical assistance in the design and implementation of social protection programmes and build capacity on methodologies and impact evaluation for programme managers and researchers in low- and middle-income countries. To ensure high research uptake and policy impact, we regularly and closely engage with policymakers and key stakeholders. Research findings are widely disseminated through social media channels, websites, in-country dissemination workshops, seminars and presentations at international research conferences 


Tia Palermo on Evaluation of Social Cash Transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa


Dakar 2017 Transfer Project Workshop Agenda


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Dakar Transfer Project Workshop: The State of Evidence on Social Cash Transfers in Africa