The Impact of Cash Transfers During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

Cash assistance has been a popular response to the COVID-19 crisis, with 340 programs introduced by 156 countries since March 2020. While cash transfers have been shown to be effective for poverty relief in many settings, the pandemic poses a range of new challenges for cash. For example, can cash transfers help people to cope when a pandemic hits on top of the lean season when people are already going hungry?  How does cash assistance affect food security and public health behavior within refugee populations, who may be uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19? To what extent do universal basic income programs help beneficiaries navigate unforeseen shocks? Did COVID-19 disrupt markets in rural areas, and to what extent did cash cushion the blow?

This webinar will share findings from three evaluations that consider these questions and assess the impacts of cash transfers on recipients’ socioeconomic well-being in Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, and Malawi within the context of the pandemic. Rachel Strohm (IPA Social Protection Program) will moderate a discussion and Q&A following the presentations. 

Panelists and Discussion Topics:

  • Caroline Teti, Director of Recipient Advocacy, GiveDirectly, will present on GiveDirectly’s ongoing work in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, and Malawi, and how operations have shifted amidst the pandemic to provide immediate relief to households through cash transfers.
  • Heather Lanthorn, Associate Director, IDinsight, will discuss interim findings from IDinsight’s ongoing evaluation of the impact of cash transfers from GiveDirectly in the Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Uganda.
  • David Sungho Park, PhD Candidate in Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz, will present a new working paper that examines how the COVID disruptions have affected poor rural areas of Liberia and Malawi, and the relationship between past cash transfers and recipients’ present food security. 
  • Tavneet Suri, Associate Professor of Applied Economics, MIT, will discuss a new study on universal basic income (UBI) in Kenya during the pandemic that considers past UBI recipients’ levels of hunger, health, and mental health during the crisis.