Implementing successful reforms: The case of social assistance in South Africa

South Africa’s social assistance system – through a comprehensive set of cash transfers -- covers nearly 16 million people. This is a big improvement from 1994, when cash transfers reached fewer than three million beneficiaries and suffered from discrimination and weak administration.
Estimates suggest that cash transfers in South Africa raise market incomes of the poor by a factor of 10, far greater than in other middle-income countries, including Brazil - often celebrated for its successful social assistance. Access to safety nets contributed to reducing poverty and inequality and had positive development impacts on health, schooling, and labor supply. How do such reforms succeed? In a new report: “Making It Happen: Selected Case Studies of Institutional Reform in South Africa, we documented how the post-Apartheid government in South Africa developed and implemented policies to improve specific public services.