Social protection in Kenya: improving cash transfer programmes

Our multi-disciplinary team carried out a functional review of the five cash transfer programmes delivered under the NSNP.

Project team members


  • Andrew Wyatt

Despite substantial progress in tackling poverty, the Government of Kenya’s flagship social protection initiative – the NSNP (National Safety Net Program) – was characterised by fragmentation, with a lack of coordination and harmonisation reducing the effectiveness and efficiency of the separate cash transfer programmes it encompasses. Our review helped identify capacity gaps, and propose a strategy for a more comprehensive and consistent national social protection framework.

We conducted a diagnostic review based on evidence from a variety of sources including government officials, payment agents, and beneficiaries of the different cash transfer programmes. Based on this, we proposed a number of recommendations to develop capacity in the short-term as well as a detailed consolidation plan. Over the longer term, these recommendations should support a stronger, more efficient and cost-effective social protection programme that operates on a national scale and targets those most in need of support.


Kenya’s government has made a substantial effort in tackling poverty through cash transfers, as part of the National Safety Net Program (NSNP). The separate transfers include those for orphans and vulnerable children, older persons, persons with severe disability, the vulnerable and food insecure in the four northern counties, and the urban poor in Mombasa (the latter programme has now been discontinued).

Despite this progress, a lack of harmonisation of the different cash transfer programmes has reduced the efficiency of service delivery, and increased the strain on scarce administrative resources.

This project was established to help identify any current and future capacity gaps in order to inform short-term programme improvements – and also to develop a longer-term plan for harmonisation consolidation and of the different initiatives.

Our approach

We adopted a two-stage approach, working closely with the Kenyan Social Protection Secretariat throughout the project. In the first stage, we conducted a diagnostic review, gathering evidence to help identify gaps in current capacity – including physical resources – in order to inform immediate capacity building plans. We also worked to provide evidence for whether, and how best, to harmonise and consolidate the separate cash transfer programmes and to continue to build greater capacity over the longer term.

Our multi-disciplinary team carried out an extensive programme of data gathering and review, in Nairobi and in four counties and a number of sub-counties across Kenya, with the collaboration of government departments, payment agents, and beneficiaries. We looked at a number of aspects of the programme including the legal framework for each transfer, the management units, targeting and enrolment processes, the payments systems delivered through third parties, case management, grievances, and evaluation. In addition, we identified workforce skills and training needs as well as the IT systems requirements of a longer-term consolidation plan.

Finally, we convened stakeholder workshops to discuss and validate our findings and recommendations around both short-term capacity building activities and the in-depth consolidation plan.


The detailed review provided by our project will help support the Government of Kenya’s efforts to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its social protection programmes, while continuing to scale up dramatically the coverage of these programmes. In the shorter term, filling immediate capacity gaps will help reduce inefficiencies brought about by duplicated efforts and a lack of coordination. In the longer term, our recommendations will help enable the Government of Kenya to come up with a nation-wide consolidation strategy for cash transfers.

Increasing the capacity of government systems to deliver the various cash transfer initiatives that make up the Kenya NSNP, and moving towards their consolidation into a single unified scheme, should help to ensure more reliable, timely and consistent payments, improving NSNP’s impact as an effective safety net for the most vulnerable households in Kenya.

Areas of expertise