Electronic Delivery of Social Cash Transfers: Lessons Learned and Opportunities for Africa

Posted by Katharine_v on Sep 17, 2010
Electronic Delivery of Social Cash Transfers: Lessons Learned and Opportunities for Africa data sheet 1831 Views
Katharine Vincent
Publication Date: 
Feb 2010
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The electronic delivery of cash can be achieved through a variety of mechanisms - debit card, smart card or cellphone, using a range of financial infrastructure -banks, automated teller machines (ATMs) and point-of-sale (POS) devices. This brief outlines recent experiences from across Africa, with a focus on Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland.

The benefits of electronic delivery systems to both governments and recipients are well known in terms of improved cost efficiency and flexibility of access, so this brief emphasises issues that are relevant to private sector partners, who are vital to the introduction of such systems.

The rapid penetration of cellphones in Africa, including both signal coverage and handset ownership, makes distribution of cash transfers by cellphone an increasingly viable proposition, as shown in Kenya through the M-PESA mechanism. Additionally the availability of cellphone signal has been instrumental in facilitating use of ofline smart cards for electronic delivery of cash transfers in Malawi and Namibia.

The growth of financial infrastructure and opportunity for banks to increase their market share has increased the favourability with which banks view potential participation in government-to-person cash transfers.

Evidence from Malawi and Swaziland shows that cash transfer recipients who are provided with bank accounts to receive their cash transfers tend to then use them to save money and to receive person-to-person transfers (e.g. remittances) – thus making further use of financial infrastructure and services.
In terms of scalability of electronic delivery systems, the time- and cost-intensive nature of the payment mechanism setup relative to the operating costs means that the incentive for private sector partners to engage is much greater for long-term programmes than short-term pilots.

Undertaking cash transfer programme registration formalities concurrently with private sector partner registration procedures (in terms of opening bank accounts or distributing SIM cards or smart cards) thus makes sense, wherever possible. It is also imperative that contractual obligations for the government implementer and private sector partner be agreed upfront, smart cards) thus makes sense, wherever possible. It is also imperative that contractual obligations for the government implementer and private sector partner be agreed upfront, desmart cards) thus makes sense, wherever possible. It is also imperative that contractual obligations for the government implementer and private sector partner be agreed upfront, defining respective roles and responsibilities, together with a grievance procedure in case of non-compliance.

As well as the growing base of evidence from projects and programmes in Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland, other countries that have expressed interest in the use of electronic delivery systems include Ghana, Lesotho and Mozambique.

Put up a Billboard and ask the Community: Using Mobile Tech for Program Monitoring and Evaluation

Posted by admin on Oct 31, 2009

Guest post by Christine Martin, Tufts University.

The potential for mobile technology to impact development has been researched and reported on in areas ranging from job matching services to financial inclusion.  More and more development agencies are adopting mobile communications in their programmes in innovative ways. However, there is a lack of research on how mobile technology is being used to monitor and evaluate programs in the field.

RapidResponse, a m-health Platform

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 08, 2009

RapidResponse is a m-health platform built on RapidSMS developed for the Millennium Villages Project with support from the UNICEF Innovation Group. RapidResponse uses SMS text messages to facilitate and coordinate the activities of health care providers in the field. These are usually lay community health care workers who tend to provide the majority of patient care in many developing countries.

Using simple text messages, the community health workers are able to register patients and send in health reports to a central web dashboard that allows a health team to closely monitor the health of a community. Powerful messaging features help facilitate communication between the members of the health system and an automated alert system helps reduce gaps in treatment.

This video gives an overview of the platform in a clear and accessible step-by-step manner. While Rapid Response in this case is focused on child malnutrition, Rapid Response has applicability in many other health and non-health settings.

RapidResponse Overview from Matt Berg on Vimeo.

For more information on Rapid Response, see the RapidSMS website.

An Evaluation of RapidSMS for Child Nutrition Surveillance in Malawi

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jun 20, 2009

Reported by Leigh Jaschke and Melissa Loudon.

This spring, UNICEF Malawi and the UNICEF Innovations Team deployed RapidSMS to monitor child growth and nutrition.  We wrote about it previously here. 

Now there is a detailed report (pdf), evaluating the effort (pdf). The report, released on June 16th, was issued by Columbia University's School of Public Policy and Affairs (SIPA), UNICEF Malawi, UNICEF's Innovations team, and Mobile Development Solutions (MDS).

The report details the findings of the deployment, and outlines recommendations for the future use of SMS in Malawi. Raymond Short of Mobile Development Solutions says that,

“while there have been innumerable ICT development applications introduced recently, there have not been many independent studies of their efficiency”.

Old Phone Donations to Provide New Phones for Community Health Workers in Africa

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 18, 2009

There is a new initiative under way to used use old phones to donate money for mobile health initiatives for clinics in Africa.  The Hope Phones campaign is a project of, the UK parent organization of FrontlineSMS, a text messaging platform.  The project asks people in the United States to donate their old phones for a small donation, in turn, to FrontlineSMS that then can be used to purchase new phones for community health workers in clinics in Malawi and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

One Laptop Per Child v. Cellphones and Radio: A view from Malawi

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 30, 2008

This report about the reality of the One Laptop Per Child initiative in one of the poorest countries on earth, the mobile revolution, the reality of radio, and what this all means for children was written by Martin Lucas in Malawi, and posted on a mailing list. We are publishing it here in its entirety for its insights and opinion. We'd love to hear from you - tell us what you think!

One Slate per Child by Martin Lucas

I have been reading with interest the discussion of the 'hundred-dollar laptop' and the One Laptop per Child initiative as I sit in Malawi, a small landlocked Southern African nation lodged between Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. According to Wikipedia, the OLPC effort has its philosophical base in the idea that children with laptops will be able to do a certain kind of thinking that isn't possible without the computer - exploring certain areas - particularly in math and science where computer access offers a qualitatively superior learning experience. Making such machines available at low prices should allow developing countries to bridge the 'digital divide', and leapfrog learning. Countries that have signed on include Uruguay. India has given a definite no. Either way, the OLPC initiative is an aspect of 'development' even 'IT for Development.' How does the initiative square with the reality of a small African nation?