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By Bernadette Deka-Zulu

(PhD Researcher-Public Enterprises in Zambia)

IN Zambia, the Social Cash Transfer scheme started in 2003 as a pilot project in Kalomo with support from the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services and has been adjusted several times since then to make sure that the nature of the cash transfer remains as intended.

It is a programme (social safety-net) that allows the government to distribute monetary resources to its citizens through electronic transfer from an individual bank account.

The Social Cash Transfer programme was established by the government as a means of providing financial support to people who are poor or vulnerable to poverty.

The beneficiaries are entitled to monthly cash transfers from the national treasury. The amount varies from one beneficiary to another depending on their needs and circumstances. 

The idea of social transfer is precisely to do things that are resource-intensive in nature but of high social value. This can include simple things as giving people access to water, putting solar panels on a house, or micro-processing loans.

Social cash transfer programmes also seek to achieve wider benefits in terms of health and education by offering non-monetary transfers to people who need them most.

For instance, programmes such as “Give Directly” have demonstrated that it is possible for key services such as food, nutrition and basic hygiene (such as clean water), to have a large social return on investment.

Social cash transfer has been a success in Zambia as a means of poverty alleviation and food security. It can be used by poor households as an additional resource, hence improving their welfare.

Despite successes seen in the initiative, there has been some noticeable weaknesses. The key weaknesses are low uptake or adoption of system re-engineering needed to increase its impact on households.

The disbursement of social cash transfer in Zambia has a number of cons, many of which have been discussed in a lot of studies. Most notably, it depends on the actual willingness of households to use cash transfers as a way to take advantage of improved opportunities.

This means that there is no guarantee that people will actually use the cash they receive to buy what they most need or want. It also means that people are unlikely to engage in productive activity if they do not have sufficient access to basic services such as;

I) Health care,

ii) Clean water and sanitation,

III) Education,

iv) Land tenure security or,

v) Financial services 

It is also not possible to make all the poor members of society aware of the cash transfer scheme because of the following reasons:

1) Ignorance among them concerning the scheme;

2) Ignorance about how and where to deposit the transferred money;

3) Lack of awareness among recipients on the importance of receiving their monthly social cash from the government;

4) Poor access to banking facilities;

5) Poor communication within households which adds more complexities to the overall process of social cash transfer in Zambia. 

The many challenges faced does not mean it is a bad initiative, social cash transfer has seen progress and advantages.  The pros of social cash transfer in Zambia include:

• Low cost of disbursement

• Easy to implement and integration with existing cash transfer programmes;

• Simple matching of cash transfers to beneficiary with minimal government bureaucracy;

• High capacity for mobilising resources through peer networks

One of the main benefits of Social Cash Transfer is that it helps to alleviate poverty by providing nutrition and education and in that area since establishment, it has scored.

There is also strong evidence that unconditional cash transfers can improve food security, health status and nutrition outcomes.

Also, they reduce poverty and inequality levels while lessening constraints to access public services and facilitate labour market transitions by providing non-cash income supplements to those who need it to boost household consumption and investment.

In the lenses of process reengineering, the Social Cash Transfer initiative has seen a lot of changes as it has gone through lots of engineering. Therefore, there are some things that could be done to the promotion of Social Cash Transfer;

• There has been a lack of research on the sustainability of schemes because they have relied on government funding in the past; also that excess usage of funds used for waivers could lead to waste. Hence, there is need for review on how the initiative can be made sustainable.

• IT systems should be redesigned through more effective monitoring and control processes because most governments have used paper vouchers with no integration systems into their policy planning processes.



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