What makes economic empowerment programmes successful? Experimental evidence from Malawi (One Pager)

Since the beginning of the 21st century we have witnessed a proliferation of social protection schemes in several countries in subSaharan Africa. Recent empirical evidence points to the effectiveness of these policies—in particular, cash transfers—in improving the ability of beneficiaries to meet their basic needs. However, it seems that cash transfers alone do not reduce poverty in a sustainable manner, and this is usually not even their explicit aim. Cash transfer beneficiaries do not manage to exit poverty by their own means; therefore, they remain dependent on social assistance. For this reason, there have been a few attempts to build integrated, multisectoral interventions, such as the BRAC graduation scheme in Bangladesh, which have then been replicated in some African countries. These programmes typically include a cash transfer for consumption purposes, an asset transfer (or lump sum grant), various forms of training, mentorship, and community mobilisation for social integration. The empirical literature highlights their positive impacts on several outcomes; however, the magnitude of the effects is not large despite the high costs. Moreover, the available studies focus on the effects of the overall package; we do not know which of the various components really makes the difference. More empirical evidence is needed in this regard.