The Transfer Project is a collaborative research and learning initiative between UNICEF, FAO, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and national research partners. The project aims to promote evidence generation, capacity building and inform development of programs and policies via regional dialogue in Africa. Every 1-2 years, policymakers, researchers and development partners get together to discuss the newest evidence generated “from Africa, for Africa”. This year’s theme focused on long-term poverty reduction, with a healthy side-debate on the role of political economy and how to promote evidence uptake. The core presentations are hereafter distilled and summarized around 8 thematic buckets. All presentations, the agenda and other resources are available on the Transfer Project website.


National cash transfer programs in Africa have been scaled up significantly – coverage of the population across the eight Transfer Project countries increased between 3-12 percentage points since 2007. Rigorous evidence accumulated over the past decade shows positive impacts on dimensions like food security, productivity, resilience, schooling and the local economy; however, considerable variance exists across countries, time and programs. Schemes are still largely donor-funded and design choices – such as transfer size and payments frequency  – can heavily influence outcomes (Handa & Davis; bonus: Top 10 Take-Aways)

Long-run effects

  • UCTs in Zambia have a range of impacts on consumption, assets, schooling and other impacts 36 months after the program’s end. What happens after 84 months? Impacts (effect size in SDs) declines and converges with the control group in all dimensions (although participating households are still better-off in 6/8 indicators) (Tembo et al.)
  • In its first decade of implementation, childhood exposure to Mexico’s CCT Progresa (Prospera) yielded significant impacts on education and labor market outcomes. Effects are particularly pronounced for women (impacts up to about 70% of outcome mean), with migration out of rural villages being one of the mechanisms for increased earnings (Parker & Vogl)
  • Globally, the exposure to 6 CCTs during early childhood shows positive effects on anthropometrics at school age in 2/4 cases where measured, cognitive development in 3/5, socio-emotional in 2/3, while learning is seldom measured. Participation during secondary school age show positive effects on schooling across a sample of 10 CCTs; yet evidence on learning is also limited for this cohort. Effects are negative in only one case out of the entire set of countries and indicators (labor force participation in Pakistan) (Maluccio et al.)
  • But what about the long-run political ownership of programs? There are multiple pathways to the institutionalization of social protection—main drivers tend to involve dominant regimes facing a threat (e.g., food crises in Ethiopia, urban riots in Mozambique) or competitive pressures (i.e., elections in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania); outliers include Uganda (Hickey).

Graduation and economic inclusion

  • Graduation from poverty or from social protection? Individuals should have access to social protection throughout the life course—i.e., they should ‘graduate’ from poverty-related social cash transfers to other types and forms of protection (Veras Soares).
  • How to effectively support household to be integrated into broader social and economic development processes? The Transfer project generated on economic/productive impacts on programme participants as well as on the multiplier impacts on local economies (here). The next phase includes more evidence on how to promote the gradual integration of households into broader rural and economic development processes and thus ensure economic inclusion (Winder-Rossi).
  • In Lesotho, combining cash with other services in finance, nutrition, agriculture and marketing (SPRINGS) amplifies impacts on some select domains, especially dietary diversity  (about 2 SDs), child anthropometrics (3 SDs), gardening (2.5 SD), and financial inclusion (1 SD). No, or little, difference in impacts between cash-only and “cash+” is detected for food security, income, assets and education (Daidone et al.).
  • Concern’s graduation program in Rwanda reduced overall deprivation, while increasing livestock, assets, savings and education. However, timeframes of 2-3 years are too short for meaningful results, and graduation is not possible for everyone (households can be classified as improvers, decliners, late improvers and dropping out). Incentives to graduate people can also lead to sub-optimal outcomes (Sabates-Wheeler).
  • In Tanzania, midline findings from a cash plus intervention targeted to adolescents 14-19 years (PSSN + livelihood and life training, mentoring with productive grant, linkages to adolescent friendly health services) finds short-term impacts on participation in economic activities, gender equitable attitudes, and health knowledge (Mwaruka).

Gender-sensitivity: what do we know and how to bolster it

  • Are social safety nets moving the bar for women’s wellbeing in Africa? Yes—but evidence for some domains more promising (economic, psychological wellbeing, gender-based violence) than others (empowerment, food security and nutrition). Few evaluations allow us to unpack design components that matter (Peterman et al.)
  • Ghana’s LEAP 1000 featured several gender-sensitive design components and delivers impacts on women’s happiness, savings, social support, intimate partner violence (quant + qual). Poverty objectives would need to incorporate gender equity matters (Palermo et al.).
  • Transfers and accompanying measures targeted to men decreased intimate partner violence in Mali—driven by polygamous households. Likely mechanisms? Reductions in poverty-related stress, men’s anxiety and increases in men’s emotional wellbeing (Hidrobo et al.).
  • Bonus: FAO’s three-part toolkit provides guidance on gender-sensitive concepts, design and evaluation (Abdoulayi et al.).

Effects on child labor

  • When cash transfers increase household productive activities, these can also increase child labor as part of such investments. Livestock ownership in Malawi (+33.9%), Zambia (+17.5%) and Tanzania (+26.9%) were accompanied by similar increases in child care for livestock (+ 6.8%, +3.9%, and +3.8% respectively) (de Hoop et al.)
  • The cash arm of a cash and food transfer program in Karamoja, Uganda, increased adults’ participation in agriculture (9pp) and investments in land (12pp). Food didn’t generate such impacts. Neither cash nor food increased education, however children in the cash arm work more in agriculture (Natali)
  • In Ethiopia, cash transfers in rural areas led to a reduction in child labor; however, these reductions do not appear to accrue to female-headed (labor constrained) households. Also, no impacts on child labor are observed in urban areas, with girls in poor female-headed household increasing the number of hours worked (Prifti)

Health, nutrition and food security

  • Kenya’s NICHE program adds a top-up to the national CT-OVC program with nutrition BCC. Top up improves the likelihood of breastfeeding by 7%, complementary feeding by 11%, the probability of child immunization and routine health check-up rose by 12%, and delivery in health facilities increased by +10 percentage points (Gachigi)
  • Integrating nutrition social services and cash transfers in Ethiopia led to a variety of positive outcomes (ranging from productive to nutrition knowledge)—yet community-level implementation capacity and coordination is key for impact and sustainability (Mekonnen)
  • Pairing unconditional cash with health insurance waivers in Ghana increased national health insurance enrollment for children (+14 percentage points relative to control group) and adults (+15pp) —but no impacts are detected on morbidity (Adamba et al).
  • Zimbabwe’s Harmonized Social Cash Transfer generated both direct (95% of total effects) and indirect impacts (5%).Among the former, 60% is due to access to food, which increased between 13-16%, while dietary diversity soared by 10-12%. Indirect effects were achieved via increased agricultural production (Pace).
  • In Tanzania, among other impacts, the PSSN decreased the likelihood of poor food consumption scores (by 11pp) and increased the uptake of health insurance registration (+21.7 pp) (Masala).

Methodological corner

  • Mixed method research is not only about “methods”, but also about the questions being asked, theories being tested, the context and feasibility. We should consider how each evaluation can build on findings from past to inform the most efficient and effective design (Barrington).
  • Creative evaluation methodology can tackle new topics in the intersection of poverty and environmental programming. One example is the evaluation of an ‘environmental CCT’ top up to the existing Tekoporá program in Paraguay, paired with training on climate-smart agroforestry production and clean cookstoves (Daidone).

What’s cooking? Snapshots of forthcoming evaluations

  • “Mwangaza Mashinani” partners with the private sector to provide off-grid solar energy solutions layered over government cash transfers in Kenya, with the objective of reducing pollution, increasing studying time for children and providing livelihood opportunities (Dublin).
  • Venturing into urban areas, Ethiopia’s cash plus pilot seeks to link urban destitute populations to health insurance, public works and more—aimed at supporting nearly 5 million urban poor (Barud).
  • Mali’s cash plus program targeted to women in the Kayes region, focuses on building resilience to shocks, combining cash with goats and livestock feed (Yahaya).
  • Burkina Faso is piloting cash transfers plus a suite of child-sensitive plus components—including WASH, nutrition BCC, parenting and economic support—with an aim to inform the ‘black box’ of mechanisms behind wellbeing impacts (Sankara).
  • The child grant program (‘cash & care’) in Mozambique targets women with children aged 0-2 years old to provide cash with case management and nutrition BCC, operating in northern Nampula province (Matusse).
  • Malawi is implementing a lean season safety net with nutrition messaging targeted to malnourished children – the ‘Cash Nut’ project (Kiswii).


Ugo Gentilini is from the World Bank’s Social Protection & Jobs global practice. The Social Protection Links newsletter, issued every Friday, distills and discusses a selection of curated resources on the topic, from academic articles to podcasts. The blog is republished on each week, offering knowledge on social protection to help you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.

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Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
        • Conditional cash transfers
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Gender
  • Poverty
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mozambique
  • Rwanda
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Mexico
  • Middle East & North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's