Rural Africa
Completed project

Tackling Youth Poverty

An international collaborative research project to investigate how social cash transfers influence youth poverty in Rural Africa

Project summary

The Challenge

Ending poverty is a key development for the world’s poorest countries but social cash transfer schemes may have a negative impact on youth poverty.

The Approach

Research was conducted in Malawi and Lesotho with ultra-poor, labour-constrained households or those receiving pensions or child grants.

The Outcome

The research detailed the complex effects of social cash transfer and knowledge was gained on the implications for the design of future schemes.

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners

The Challenge

Social cash transfer schemes are extremely popular across parts of Africa. They are being introducing in many different countries, and they have been evaluated a great deal in terms of their impact on those who are seen as the target beneficiaries, for example elderly people and children.

This research project considered the impacts on those outsides of these categories, for example young people, and how social cash transfer schemes influence intergenerational relations.

The full research team

The Approach

The project focused on young people living in rural areas. Qualitative research, including focus groups, interviews and participatory meetings took place in two villages where the research team had worked previously.

The first village was in Malawi, which has recently introduced social cash transfers to ultra-poor labour-constrained households and the other was in Lesotho, where elderly villagers receive pensions and some households receive child grants.

We have from the outset been engaging with policymakers in the area, both in terms of the donors and the NGOs that are involved who are encouraging governments to take up particular types of cash transfer schemes.

Stakeholder group meetings in Malawi were held, where the project brought together relevant people from NGOs government ministries and the donor community from the UN agencies for example, to talk about the project and what they saw as its value to them.  It also gave a chance to talk about how we might be able to use the project develop the project in a way that would be able to communicate our findings most effectively to those who would be in a position to make use of it.

Nicola Ansell and Thandie Hlabana - SCTs and youth poverty in rural Lesotho and Malawi

The Impact

The research detailed the implications for the design of social cash transfer schemes and provided a range of policy briefings. A key finding was that cash transfers are viewed by recipients as invaluable for poverty reduction, but their full effects depend on how they intervene in social relations. Schemes that target vulnerable households are based on inadequate understanding of household dynamics, and as a consequence are perceived as arbitrary and unfair.

Cash transfers to the elderly (particularly where they are universal) are perceived to be fairer than those to young adults and may contribute more to community bonds, though young people may invest more in productive activities. Unearned transfers to young adults may promote social isolation; public works schemes are widely viewed as a more legitimate way of assisting young families.