Assessing a ‘Cash Plus’ approach to enhancing clean energy access in Kenya

We are working with the Government of Kenya and UNICEF to test an approach to enhance clean energy access for the poorest households in Kenya, in order to improve education, health and livelihood outcomes for households and their children.

The Mwangaza Mashinani is a pilot project that addresses the issue of affordability of solar products to enhance energy access for the most vulnerable segment of the Kenyan population. The project provides subsidies through a bi-monthly cash top-up to households enrolled in the Government of Kenya (GoK)’s cash transfer programme who wish to purchase a 3-bulb solar device for lighting and phone charging.

Through improved energy access, the project aims to increase children’s and their family’s well-being by:

  • Households reducing the use of kerosene and/or candles for lighting resulting in a reduction in indoor air pollution and fire hazards.
  • Children increasing the number of hours that they spend studying at night by using solar lighting resulting in improved educational outcomes.
  • Households using the solar device to increase productive activity, diversify livelihoods and reduce net energy expenditure, resulting in an increase in household income.

Additionally, the project seeks to develop markets for solar energy by increasing the penetration of solar products in previously underserved communities.

The pilot’s first phase supported 2,000 households and was implemented by the GoK, with support from UNICEF and funding from Sida, between December 2018 and July 2020 in Kilifi and Garissa counties.

The challenge

In December 2018, the GoK launched its National Electrification Strategy to achieve its goal of universal energy access by 2022. Kenya has seen rapid increases in electrification over the past few years, increasing grid access for Kenyan households from a rate of 25% in 2011 to 64.5% in 2018 (Power Africa, 2018). Despite this, there remain large inequities in electricity provision, with close to 95% of the population not having access to electricity in rural parts of the country (Willcox et al., 2015). While Kenya has a rapidly growing and innovative solar market, most of the large solar suppliers are concentrated in the western and central parts of Kenya, with limited supply networks in rural areas. Further, solar devices are relatively expensive products and even when products are available, the poorest households remain excluded due to the issue of product affordability.

The GoK has made significant progress in building the National Safety Net Programme, which has expanded cash transfers to the most vulnerable segments of the population. In 2020, the GoK transferred KSH 4,000 (~US$ 37) to over 1 million households on a bi-monthly basis. Over the next five years, the GoK has prioritised the ‘cash plus’ agenda, based on the assumption that the impacts on households’ well-being are greater if cash transfers are complemented and linked with other interventions and programmes. The ‘cash plus’ agenda hopes to help households to diversify their incomes as well as to access essential services, such as energy services.

Our approach

This evaluation of the Mwangaza Mashinani is intended to help understand the impact of the project on the households and children it supports. At the same time, the evaluation was also designed to learn from the process of implementation in Phase 1, in order to modify implementation in its second phase and eventually when the project is scaled up.

We developed a mixed methods framework that combines four studies to provide evidence for the evaluation, comprising:

  • A quantitative study based on a quasi-experimental design and a quantitative household survey, which was implemented through an in-person survey before the project started (baseline), a mobile phone survey when the project ended (midline) and an in-person survey one year after the end of the project (endline). The quantitative survey measured the impact of the project on household’s and children’s health, study hours, and livelihood outcomes (among others).
  • A qualitative study based on interviews with community leaders, community-based project support structures, and male and female household members. We collected evidence to understand the relevance of the project for participants, how the programme was implemented (including areas of strength and weakness), and to obtain initial evidence on the project’s sustainability.
  • An implementation review to understand the relevance of the project for national-level stakeholders, including the GoK, UNICEF, and the implementing consortium and their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of implementation.
  • A value-for-money study to assess the economy, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the pilot using data from UNICEF and the implementing consortium.

Outcomes and wider impacts

The Mwangaza Mashinani project has improved households’ access to energy, children’s time spent studying and households’ social well-being. Specifically, the move from using kerosene and candles for lighting to solar home systems has reduced household expenditure both on energy for lighting and on mobile phone charging. Households have used this additional income to buy food or pay for school-related expenses.

The pilot project has increased the time children spend studying at home and especially at night. We also found that solar devices improve households’ sense of security against theft and wild animals. Households enrolled in the project also felt that the solar device provided them with a greater social standing in the community as their homes became places for gathering with other households and members of the community. Finally, households whose device included a radio function also reported that this improved their access to information.

The evaluation findings also highlighted some of the areas in which project implementation could be improved in the second phase and during scale-up. In particular, greater investment in outreach and communications, at all stages of delivery, will ensure that project participants and other stakeholders are aware of key programme processes and resources at their disposal.

The full evaluation data have also been published on the World Bank website.

We would like to thank Alexandra Doyle, Tom Pellens, Saltanat Rasulova, Andrej Kveder, Anam Bashir, Jana Harb, Ishleen Sethi, Virginia Barberis, Alastair Haynes, Paul Baker, Neetish Hurry, and Jeconiah Kitala for their work throughout the project.

Areas of expertise