In March 2020, GiveDirectly launched The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund to protect vulnerable Kenyan communities by sending recipients cash through mobile wallets. GiveDirectly is a nonprofit organization operating in East Africa that works to alleviate extreme poverty. Since its founding in 2009, GiveDirectly has given over $160 million to 170,000 families in the region, eventually earning a 100% rating from Charity Navigator. GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project is an initiative to help low-income Kenyans, especially during COVID-19.
Kenya Emergency Cash Fund
The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund, also known as the Kenya COVID-19 Fund, was formed in partnership with the Shikilia Initiative, which is a collaboration between the Kenyan private sector and nonprofit organizations. In coordination with GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, Shikilia’s goal during the pandemic is to provide 200,000 people with monthly transfers of $30 for the next three months.
“We currently have enrolled 11,000 adults into the program and have disbursed around $300 to these recipients,” Director of Recipient Advocacy, Caroline Teti, told The Borgen Project. Teti joined GiveDirectly in 2016. She hopes to put an end to the devastating and disempowering nature of poverty across Africa through innovative projects such as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project.
GiveDirectly has already launched settlements in Mathare, Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru and Kawangware. This is crucial since resident families of these settlements live on $2 or less and are therefore expected to take the hardest economic hit as a result of the pandemic. For example, Teti reported that as a result of COVID-19, 95% of people in Mathare are eating less.
Recipients barely had savings before the pandemic. So, without GiveDirectly’s cash transfers made available to low-income communities by the Emergency Cash Fund, Teti believes that “families would have snuck back to the villages, increasing transmission risks to older people living in the countryside.”
Making Cash Transfers Efficient
In order to ensure that these cash transfers made to recipients are efficient, GiveDirectly is partnering with Shining Hope for Communities, a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums in Kenya.
Methods GiveDirectly and SHOFCO use to reach recipients more rapidly include using existing databases of low-income households, using rosters provided by local vetted NGO partners and using rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through partner mobile network operators.
Though GiveDirectly’s priority is getting cash to hard-hit families in extreme poverty in Kenya, it also organized Project 100 to raise funds for U.S. families impacted by COVID-19. For this project, GiveDirectly partnered with Propel, a company that helps recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program manage their benefits. The project aims to raise a total of $100 million for recipients.
The Road Ahead
According to the World Bank, poverty in Kenya may still remain above 20% by 2030 if it continues on a minimal growth path. More job opportunities for youth and infrastructure investments that improve transportation and service deliveries would be necessary to raise Kenya’s productivity.
Through GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, an efficient and simple method of delivering cash, small-scale businesses will have the opportunity to grow, especially when food insecurity is no longer an obstacle. As Teti says, “We must rethink recipient empowerment and consider cash as a model for changing the lives of people living in poverty.”
– Joy Arkeh