A Cash Transfer Program Improves the Lives of Cameroon’s Poorest Families

March 3, 2016


Jean-Claude Wandji’s family is one of 65,000 vulnerable households now benefiting from a cash transfer program. 

© Odilia Hegba/World Bank

  • In Cameroon, the national poverty rate has hovered around 39% since 2001
  • A social safety net project has implemented a cash transfer program to help the poorest households address their daily needs and emerge from chronic poverty
  • The program targets close to 65,000 rural and urban households in five regions of Cameroon including 5,000 urban households in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé

DOUALA, March 3, 2016 – At age 51, Jean-Claude Wandji is a widower struggling to take care of his children and grandchildren who are still under his roof.  Unable to secure steady employment, he ekes out a living as a street vendor in order to feed his children.  His situation is extremely precarious. When he does not manage to sell anything, there a good chance that his family will not eat.

Vulnerable households such as Wandji’s are becoming increasingly common in Cameroon.  Despite the country’s vast wealth of natural resources, growth has not yet been able to make a dent in the national poverty rate, which has held steady at 39% since 2001.  In the northern regions, the poverty rate can top the 50%.

It is against this backdrop that the Government of Cameroon and the World Bank Group established the Social Safety Net Project, with the aim of creating a national social safety net system that includes a cash transfer program and coordinates income-generating activities (IGAs) for the poorest.

The cash transfer program targets 65,000 extremely poor households in following five regions of Cameroon: Adamaoua, East, North, Northwest, and Far North.  It also targets 5,000 urban households in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé, targeting underprivileged neighborhoods such as New Bell where Wandji’s family calls home.


Families in New Bell, an underprivileged neighborhood in Doula, are able to pay medical bills and school fees thanks to a cash transfer program that supplements their income.

© Odilia Hegba/World Bank

“With this money, I can feed my children and pay school tuition.  If I manage to save, I will be able to buy high-quality merchandise,” said Wandji full of emotion when he received the first cash transfer installment. 

At the New Bell youth center, more than 500 people patiently awaited the payment of CFAF 20,000, to be disbursed every two months, over a 24-month period. These funds, which are provided to the most vulnerable, are contingent on a moral contract.

“Under this contract, I am required to follow certain rules regarding the use of this money.  It will help me cover my medical expenses,” explains Tchatcho Aloise, a 52-year old single mother. “I started to have vision problems a few years ago, but I was too poor to pay for medical care.  I lost vision in my left eye and now my right eye is failing.”

Health, education, nutrition, public services, and training are the main areas in which beneficiaries are required to spend this money.  Living below the poverty line, these families have not been able to afford some of life’s most basic needs.  These transfers will now make it possible for pregnant women to receive prenatal care, babies to be registered at birth, children to be enrolled in school, and youth and elderly to enjoy better nutrition.

Beneficiary households are also encouraged to develop income-generating activities.  To this end, the project facilitates the establishment of associations, offers technical support, and provides two transfers of CFAF 80,000, which can be used as investment capital.

Carlo del Ninno, World Bank Senior Economist for the Africa region working on safety net policies and programs, explains that “studies have shown that the cash transfer system, along with other measures, has a significant impact on development. Thanks in part to this program, the most vulnerable households in Cameroon will be able to break a vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition.”

The first phase of payments started at the end of November 2015 in the Far North region and was completed at the end of January 2016 in the cities of Yaoundé and Douala.  A new payment phase will reconvene beneficiaries in two months’ time.