Social cash transfers have become extremely popular in Sub-Saharan Africa. Impact reviews on such programmes in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Zambia show that cash transfers have a significant impact on the livelihoods of households and communities. However, evidence of their effect on graduation from poverty is limited.
Although impacts vary between countries, all the programmes examined increased the likelihood of graduation. However, sustainable graduation is not a credible promise for many segments of the population, especially for households with limited labour capacity, nor is it credible in the absence of conducive market conditions (i.e. the shape and type of markets and access to and the quality of public services).
Sustainable graduation can be facilitated by specific cash-transfer design features; the level of transfers, the predictability of payments and the type of messaging associated with disbursement all are critical factors. To be truly effective, cash transfers need to be complemented by poverty reduction programmes.