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Profiles

Frank Otchere

Social Policy Manager

Frank is a Social Policy Specialist overseeing some of the ongoing research under the Transfer Project and the Gender Responsive and Age Sensitive Social Protection (GRASSP) research streams. He has particular interest in the broad impacts of cash transfers on households and livelihoods, and of the heterogenous impacts of cash transfer interventions on different households. Frank also has interest in the broader social protection agenda, particularly of innovative financing for development, fiscal space analysis, and cost effectiveness and cost efficiency analysis. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as Masters degrees in Statistics and Demography, both from the University of Ghana. Prior to joining Innocenti, he worked as a Research Fellow with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), a leading think tank based at the University of Ghana.

Publications

The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Publication

The impact of the war in Ukraine and subsequent economic downturn on child poverty in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

This brief undertakes a regional analysis of the impact of the war in Ukraine – and subsequent economic downturn – on the situation of children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. We specifically examine the impacts on child poverty, school years lost, and infant mortality. Based on a demographic snapshot of the region, our models predict that an additional 10 million people – including about 4 million children – will be pushed into poverty compared to pre-war predictions. About 4,500 more children will die before their first birthday, and 117,000 years of schooling will be lost. The brief concludes with implications for the work of UNICEF and government partners in addressing these poverty risks.
Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: Qualitative midline evaluation of the ISNP in Amhara
Publication

Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: Qualitative midline evaluation of the ISNP in Amhara

Integrated social protection programmes are increasingly being pursued as more effective and efficient ways to improve children’s health and nutrition outcomes.
Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: A qualitative mid-line evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Programme in Amhara
Publication

Improving Children’s Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Ethiopia: A qualitative mid-line evaluation of the Integrated Safety Net Programme in Amhara

Integrated social protection programmes are increasingly being pursued as more effective and efficient ways to improve children’s health and nutrition outcomes.
Cash transfers – Past, present and future: Evidence and lessons learned from the Transfer Project
Publication

Cash transfers – Past, present and future: Evidence and lessons learned from the Transfer Project

Since 2009, the Transfer Project has generated rigorous evidence on the impacts of cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and has supported their expansion.1 The Transfer Project is a collaborative network comprising UNICEF (Innocenti, Regional and Country Offices), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, national governments and researchers. It aims to “provide evidence on the effectiveness of cash transfer programmes, inform the development and design of cash transfer policy and programmes, and promote learning across SSA on the design and implementation of research and evaluations on cash transfers”. this brief summarizes the current evidence and lessons learned from the Transfer Project after more than a decade of research. It also introduces new frontiers of research.

Blogs

Overcoming the adolescent financing gap: The Burundi investment case
Blog

Overcoming the adolescent financing gap: The Burundi investment case

Adolescence (10-19 years) is a make or break period when individuals begin to consolidate their physical, cognitive, emotional and socio-economic foundations that will shape their lives. Adolescence is a critical period as many individuals never fully recover from any developmental shortcomings they experience. Yet in today’s world, many adolescents lack access to critical services in health, education, psycho-social support, parental guidance and an enabling environment that would adequately prepare them for a safe transition to adulthood.Adolescence is a critical period as many individuals never fully recover from any developmental shortcomings they experience.The World Bank Human Capital Project and the African Union roadmap on taking full advantage of the demographic dividend recognize the importance of investing in young people as a necessary condition for the realization of several national goals and the SDGs. Nonetheless, a yawning gap exists between this understanding and the reality in several countries. Expenditure on social services are widely perceived as costs with no tangible public returns, at least in the short run. As a result, there is usually a tendency to underinvest in building human capital in favor of items such as roads or bridges for which benefits are more tangible and immediate, and which also tend to be politically more expedient.In an effort to draw attention to this investment gap and the practical implications of the lack of investment, the UNICEF Country Office in Burundi, working in coordination with government ministries (under the leadership of the Ministry of Youth, Posts and Information Technology) and other development partners (UNFPA, UN Women and UNDP) have recently undertaken an investment case for adolescents in the country.Burundi currently faces many challenging socio-economic conditions as it recovers from a period of social and political instability. GDP per capita was estimated at about $262 in 2019, down from $305 in 2015 (WB, 2020). Burundi is ranked 185 out of 189 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index of 2019; and ranked 138 out of 157 on World Bank Human Capital Index of 2018. Adolescents make up about 25 per cent of the population, of which about 30 per cent are already out of school. Only 10 per cent of the relevant age cohort complete secondary education, and there are many issues relating to the quality of education. Adolescent mortality rate is 277 per 100,000, ranking 172 out of 183 countries by WHO in 2017. Malaria and tuberculosis account for 27 per cent and 25 per cent respectively of these deaths. Among males, the death rate due to road accident is 24 per 100,000. About 9 per cent of girls 15-19 are mothers with an unmet need for family planning at 55 per cent and maternal conditions account for 21 deaths per 100,000 girls of ages 15-19.Children play a game at a recreational space in Rumonge Province, Burundi, opened in January 2019. Members of the community have assumed responsibility for its management and funding.Burundi’s investment case focuses on interventions aimed at improving the health and education/skills acquisition of adolescent girls and boys. The health interventions include preventive and curative strategies relating to reproductive health, maternal and child health, malaria, mental health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and road accidents. The education interventions include those targeted at formal education:  teaching and learning, school infrastructure and cash for the poorest students; and those targeted at non-formal education: social innovation and entrepreneurship, trade certificates and professional training.Direct benefits of the health interventions are estimated using the OneHealth Tool  which takes into account current prevalence of each condition and the morbidity and mortality that can be averted by adopting various tested interventions[i]. All together, the health interventions are expected to lead to:a reduction in the adolescent fertility rate by 23.7 per cent resulting in 25,817 fewer (usually unplanned) births;1,361 stillbirths and 1,580 newborn deaths to adolescent mothers averted;75 maternal deaths of adolescents averted;15,157 fewer children of adolescents stunted;6,300 adolescents lives saved from tuberculosis;1,500 adolescent lives saved from road traffic injuries;5,798 adolescents saved from serious disability from road traffic crashes; and16,842 lives saved form cervical cancer over the lifetime of the targeted cohort.The education interventions, compared to following the status-quo, are projected to achieve:Increase in school enrolment of adolescents (15-19) from a current level of 55 per cent to 71 per cent by 2030;Reduction from 30 per cent to 11 per cent of students leaving school with only primary education;350,000 additional beneficiaries acquire a trade certificate;40,000 adolescents acquire vocational training; andproductivity of males aged 20-24 in 2050 increased by 85.9 per cent while that of females aged 20-24 in the same year is increased by 102.2 per cent.Put together, the health and education interventions would inevitably result in a healthier and more productive labour force that can transform the economic fortunes of the country in the coming decades. The total (cumulative) cost for financing all the proposed interventions up to 2030 is about USD 1.2 billion (approximately $124 million per annum), which is modest compared to all the immediate benefits enumerated above. What is even more reassuring is the fact that the estimated economic value and social benefits from these investments are more than tenfold the cost.The results of the modeling framework show that, an annual investment of $8.8 million in the health interventions over the period 2019 – 2030 would accrue social and economic benefits of magnitude that translate to a benefit-to-cost (BCR) ratio of 16.4. Similarly, investments of $115.2 million per annum in the education interventions over the period 2019 – 2030 is expected to provide a BCR of 9.7. The full report is available here.[ii] The economic benefits are realized from the output of people who would otherwise be dead or severely disabled, and from the increased productivity from a more skilled and healthier workforce.Analysis of recent budgets of the Burundi government shows an already high commitment to education and health (about 30 per cent in 2018/2019 budget) leaving limited fiscal space for these additional expenses to be borne by the Government. There may be some room for increasing tax revenues and increasing the efficiency of public spending, but the key to bridging the financing gap lies in increased overseas development assistance and innovative financing schemes such as the Global Financing Facility, the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB, and GAVI.The fallout of the COVID pandemic will likely put more adolescents at risk of missing out on key development milestones and government budgets will likely become overstretched as the effects of the global economic slowdown continue to bite. As noted by the Executive Director of UNICEF at the launch of the Generation Unlimited initiative in 2018:The change in demographics the world is experiencing, coupled with fast-moving technological advances, presents a critical moment in history. If we act wisely and urgently, we can create a skilled cohort of young people better prepared to create sustainable economies, and peaceful and prosperous societies. Young people may represent 25 per cent of the global population, but they account for 100 per cent of the future. We cannot afford to fail them.[i] Models take account of the effectiveness of interventions and potential uptake where necessary[ii] Future costs and benefits are discounted as appropriate. Frank Otchere is social policy specialist with the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti in Florence, Italy.
Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
Blog

Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?

It is a known fact that in nearly every country, children are more likely to live in (monetary) poverty than adults (19% versus 9% respectively in 2018). This has immediate effects on the well-being of children, their development prospects and consequently their adult life. Cash transfer programs targeted at the poorest households have become one of the key policy tools for ameliorating the situation with a proven track record of success.However, contemporary approaches to targeting are notoriously error-prone. Deserving groups may be excluded, some miss out due to fluid transitions in-and-out of poverty. Cash transfers are operationally costly, and sometimes give rise to intra-community tensions. Some cash transfer programmes impose conditions that diminish dignity, re-enforce gender stereotypes that exacerbate women’s time poverty, or promote political patronage.Universal child grants are monthly cash transfers that are provided to the caregiver of every single child that lives in a defined jurisdiction – perhaps only subject to legal status requirements. Universal child grants are proposed as a possible solution to fix these challenges associated with the targeted cash transfer schemes. They can essentially reduce child poverty to the bare minimum or eradicate it altogether. Two obvious objections are the fiscal implications of full coverage and the potential unintended negative consequences (such as increasing fertility or reduced labor supply).Universal child grants are monthly cash transfers to the caregiver of every single child that lives in a defined jurisdiction.Click image to access the report.Recently UNICEF, ILO and the Overseas Development Institute convened an international conference to explore arguments and evidence from implementation of alternative cash transfer schemes and their implications for universal child grants. (Find all key conference background documents – agenda, session recordings, participant list, concept note here) I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at this conference and am eager to share key takeaways and reflections.First, it would be better to use the word ‘benefits’ in place of ‘grants.’ While this may sound like mere semantics, the word ‘benefits’ frames the proposition as a need to fulfill an entitlement: a positive right, not the idea of a favour, which the word ‘grants’ is more associated with. If there are no costs associated with changing the framing, I would think ‘universal child benefit’ would be more appealing term, but I will stick to ‘universal child grant’ for the rest of the this post.The next three takeaways are communicated in three numbers: 35, 8 and 1.5.35% of children/households receive child/family cash benefits globally. Differences exist across countries and regions with 88% coverage in Europe and Central Asia, 28% in Asia and the Pacific and 16% in Africa. Given the large shares of children in Africa and Asia, these figures imply that almost two thirds of children (1.3 billion) are not covered by any form of social protection. Some 23 countries already have non-contributory universal child grants while an additional 40 countries have non-contributory means-tested schemes, and there are a lot of lessons learnt from these schemes to inform other countries in design and implementation. (Click on the report cover image to download the full ILO-UNICEF report)8 policy options have been proposed for creating fiscal space in national budgets to fund universal child grants outlined in this paper:Re-allocating of public expenditures;Increasing tax revenues;Expanding social security coverage and contributory systems;Lobbying for aid and transfers;Eliminating illicit financial flows;Using fiscal and foreign exchange reserves;Managing debt; andAdopting a more accommodative macroeconomic framework.The paper illustrates how Governments can apply them based on their unique circumstances. The authors contend that “fiscal space for social protection and the SDGs exists even in the poorest countries.”  Mario Györishowed how reallocating the funding for a current food and energy subsidy could create fiscal room to fund a universal child allowance, with greater impact on poverty.1.5% of GDP, on average, is required to fund universal child grants in various countries. An important contribution frm one session at the conference was that funding for universal child grants should be indexed as a share of government expenditure and not GDP, and I fully agree with this position. Linking funding to government expenditure would directly put the question of prioritization (not trade-offs) in focus.The World Bank and the IMF representatives in the final plenary agreed, in principle, to the idea of universal social protection for children (at least for those aged 0-2 years).  Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director for Social Protection and Jobs at the World Bank described the idea of supporting children (especially the vulnerable) and investing in their future as marriage made in heaven: good social contract and good economics.Author's presentation at the International Conference on Universal Child Grants, Geneva. Click image to access slides.Listening to presentations from different countries, it was clear that governments around the world recognize the need to progressively move towards universal child grants in some shape or form. There were discussions about administration and implementing challenges, and the question of the covering the last mile (reaching the hardest to reach). The question of benefit level and provision for the caregiver (or rest of the household) are also open questions for which there was not much time to cover.To achieve SDG goal 1.3 to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all children, the best route would be through universal child grants. They should be prioritized in government allocations as an important first step towards social protection for all. A global universal child grant fund – like the Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria should be created to accumulate enough reserve to finance grants starting with the poorest countries, and where political conditions are least favourable. These are often the very countries where child poverty rates are highest and where the investments would yield the highest returns. Operational headwinds may abound but that should not be enough justification for delaying action. I look forward to the final publications from the conference and the next steps in the space. Frank Otchere  Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, is a Statistician and Demographer by training, and has worked on several Transfer Project impact evaluations, including Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe. 

Journal articles

Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
Journal Article

Knowledge of and access to frontline workers among poor, rural households in Amhara region, Ethiopia: a mixed-methods study

Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
Journal Article

Building Resilience through Social Protection: Evidence from Malawi

Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
Journal Article

Linking poverty-targeted social protection and Community Based Health Insurance in Ethiopia: Enrolment, linkages, and gaps

Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
Journal Article

More Evidence on the Impact of Government Social Protection in Sub Saharan Africa: Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe