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Social cash transfers in low-income countries: Conditional or unconditional

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Written by Rachel Slater

Conventional wisdom hails Latin American experience with conditional cash transfers (CCTs) as successful, but, to the authors' knowledge, there have been no rigorous analyses of the respective costs and benefits of conditional versus unconditional transfers. The impact of conditionality itself is therefore not known. This article argues that the important contextual differences between Africa and Latin America, in quality and quantity of service provision, capacity to implement conditionality, socio-cultural, ethnic and political contexts, and, potentially, the benefit:cost ratio of conditionality, may well make the introduction of CCTs in Africa inappropriate. It sets out a number of questions and points to a new case in Chipata, Zambia, which will be rigorously monitored from the outset.

Bernd Schubert and Rachel Slater