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Researchers and Policy-Makers Discuss Evidence for Social Protection Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Researchers and Policy-Makers Discuss Evidence for Social Protection Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa

2 April 2019 - 4 April 2019

Participants at the 7th Transfer Project Workshop held April 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania. 

(10 April 2019)  Celebrating 10 years of building evidence for action on cash transfers in Africa, the Transfer Project’s latest multi-stakeholder workshop in Arusha, Tanzania recently gathered social protection experts from 20 African countries. Attended by government representatives, NGOs, academics, and donors, the workshop facilitated cross-country learning, dialogue and debate to inform the development of social protection policies.

Now in its seventh iteration, the Transfer Project workshop has grown from 39 participants in 2010, to over 130 participants in 2019. It is increasingly seen as an important forum where governments exchange and learn about the use of evaluations and evidence produced by UNICEF Innocenti and partners in decision-making processes across the region. A government representative went so far as to say that the impact evaluation report of the Social Cash Transfer Programme was “the bible” for his ministry.

The Transfer Project is a collaboration between UNICEF, FAOUNC Chapel Hill, as well as national governments and local research partners. For over a decade, this multi-organisational research initiative has been producing evidence on the impacts of cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa, going beyond measuring typical economic outcomes, to find out if and how cash impacts other aspects of people’s lives. 

Policy Influencers

The workshop was officially opened by Hon. Dr. Mary Mwanjelwa, Deputy Minister from the Tanzanian President’s Office. This first day focused on long-term poverty reduction by exploring the contentious topic of “graduation” from social protection, the productive impacts of cash transfers, as well as a guest lecture by University of Manchester’s Samuel Hickey who discussed the political economy issues surrounding support for and scale-up of social protection, including critical junctures such as national elections or famine.

The second day featured evidence from across the region and spanned various themes, including gender, child labour, and cash plus approaches. Representatives from the hosts, Tanzania’s Social Action Fund, provided an in-depth look at the impacts of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Net programme, outlining how cash plus programmes can have a positive impact on young people’s lives. 

UNICEF Innocenti researchers played a prominent role. Tia Palermo and Amber Peterman presented work on cash transfers and gender (chaired by Lusajo Kajula), while Luisa Natali and Jacob de Hoop presented evidence on cash transfers and children’s productive activities. In addition, collaborative research with Innocenti on impact evaluations in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia were showcased by national and academic partners. 

 “Because poverty is gendered, we can’t sustainably reduce poverty without addressing gender inequities.” – Tia Palermo

The final day of the workshop delved into methodological approaches on impact evaluation and provided a preview of innovative new programmes in the pipeline from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Malawi.

A small group discusses how the political economy influences social protection policies and programmes at the 7th Transfer Project Workshop held April 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania. 

Media Engagement

While garnering the support of stakeholders is indispensable for the implementation and growth of social protection policies, there is also a need to translate the evidence to speak to a wider audience. That’s why this year, the Transfer Project held its first-ever Media Day preceeding the workshop.

Supported by the Hewlett Foundation, and in collaboration with UNICEF’s East and Southern Africa Regional Office, the media day hosted 16 journalists and editors from prominent media houses across nine countries in Africa. This one-day crash course in social protection and cash transfers equipped the media with the latest thinking, evidence, and arguments on the case for scaling up social protection instruments. The event also provided an opportunity to discuss the important role the media plays in shaping development policies, as well as identifying what is required from researchers to better cover social protection findings. Read national media coverage on cash transfers following the workshop in The Herald (Zimbabwe).

“[Evidence] had a backseat in the way we were doing things, but now I realise that it should be put in the forefront. You cannot create a social protection policy without evidence or evidential support.” – A Government official participant.

The workshop concluded with a fascinating session on converting evidence into action, featuring perspectives from donors, government, civil society, national researchers and multi-lateral perspectives. Chaired by Transfer Project co-founder, Ashu Handa, the session gave an unfiltered insight into the challenges of and lessons on evidence-uptake to influence decision-making.

As the Transfer Project enters its second decade, research priorities and demands are changing. While evidence on cash transfers in this region can no longer be called ‘novel’, there is still a huge demand for evidence in the region—around graduation, long-term effects, cash plus, systems building and more. It was particularly exciting to see governments presenting the use of evaluations and evidence produced by Innocenti in their decision-making processes.

Check out the Transfer Project’s website for all presentations, photos and videos from the workshop. Explore the workshop’s agenda and participants in the right-hand column of this article. See highlights from across the three days in Transfer Project’s Twitter Moment.

Related Articles

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

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

(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: Increasing awareness of cross-regional evidenceIdentifying gaps for future researchMaking 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, ZambiaThe 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, EthiopiaStay 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.

Research Projects

Social protection and cash transfers
Research Project

Social protection and cash transfers

 Social protection has significant positive impacts for poor and vulnerable children and their families. Cash transfers – regular, predictable payments of cash - are an important social protection modality. Research shows that cash transfers promote economic empowerment, while decreasing poverty and food insecurity. Our research goes beyond this to find out if and how cash transfers can be used more effectively to impact other aspects of people’s lives. Innocenti’s work on cash transfers forms part of an inter-agency research and learning initiative called the Transfer Project.A collaboration between UNICEF, FAO, University of North Carolina, and UNICEF country offices, the Transfer Project provides rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale, typically unconditional national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa and countries in the Middle East. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in over a dozen countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique and Malawi. The Transfer Project disseminates results to national and international stakeholders and holds a bi-annual workshop to promote cross-country learning and capacity building.The Transfer Project is a thought leader on cash transfers in Africa, with over a decade’s research. Findings indicate that cash transfers can: increase household productive capacity and resilience; create household and local economy spill overs; increase school enrollment and attendance;improve mental health and life satisfaction;delay sexual debut and reduce intimate partner violence, among others. However, numerous evidence gaps exist, including on promising ‘cash-plus’ designs, on long-term impacts and if impacts are transferable to fragile and humanitarian settings. While establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted instability and displaced populations is more complex, it is also increasingly viewed as an essential mechanism to bridge the humanitarian-developmental divide. Our project Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings is contributing to investigate what works, and why in those contexts.



Arusha Transfer Project Workshop Agenda, 2-4 April 2019
Participants list
Arusha Transfer Project Workshop Participant List, 2-4 April 2019


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Researchers and Policy-Makers Discuss Evidence for Social Protection Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa