Social cash transfers to vulnerable households and individuals have been adopted at an unprecedented scale across sub-Saharan Africa. While most programs initially relied on manual cash disbursements, digital payment technologies have been on the rise since the early 2000s. Through a survey of 130 programs in 44 countries this paper offers a comprehensive overview of payment instruments and providers used in the region. Although cash continues to play a key role in the disbursement of social transfers, the adoption of electronic payments through private companies is increasing and further payment reforms and digitization efforts can be expected.
Government-to-person (G2P) payments have never been more important, as governments worldwide seek for ways to respond to the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge of making these massive payouts to the poor and informal sector workers is highlighting the differences between the G2P payment ecosystems across countries.
The COVID-19 response amounts to a significant expansion in the scale and scope of direct cash transfers as well as other social assistance—a huge increase in government-to-people (G2P) payments. As we explain in our new report, delivering on these programs will require an enormous increase in the capacity of states to implement them.