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FEATURE STORYMarch 18, 2022

Youth Fighting Back Poverty with the Help of the Social Safety Net Project

Youth Fighting Back Poverty with the Help of the Social Safety Net Project

Fadimatou Garba, 31 – Seamstress – Cash transfer beneficiary, Yaounde, Cameroun. 

© Odilia Hebga, World Bank


  • Approximately 6.9 million Cameroonians are currently living in extreme poverty.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a slowdown of business activities, and loss of jobs and income for many, especially the youth
  • By providing temporary jobs and cash allowances, a social protection project has already helped 177,000 families to get out of poverty.

YAOUNDE, Cameroon, March 17, 2022 - Fadimatou Garba is 31 years old and lives in Yaounde. She is a widow and mother of four children. Her husband, who was the sole provider of the family, passed away five years ago. At only 26 she became the head of the family and struggled to put at least a meal on the table for her children. Married at a very young age, with no degrees, her family’s future looked very dark.

Over 25% of the population is considered poor, and the pandemic-related crisis pushed an additional 400,000 people into poverty. Young people paid a higher price.

Like Fadimatou’s family, having more than a meal per day is a luxury for many Cameroonians. With no national social protection strategy (including safety nets) in Cameroon and no coordinated mechanisms for providing targeted support to the poor, introducing a Social Safety operation in 2004 helped the country in its strategy of tackling poverty and having an efficient social protection system.

The Social Safety Net project gives hope to poor and vulnerable households, such as Fadimatou’s, across the country. It provides beneficiaries with either cash transfers or temporary public works employment to give them a hand during challenging times and help them lift themselves out of poverty.

“I was so happy to learn that I was selected as a beneficiary, this changed my life. The only thing I could do and knew how to do was sewing, says Fadimatou. So, with the money received for the cash transfer between 2017 and 2019, I first started sewing at home and the following year was able to rent a small space at the Briquetterie market and opened a sewing workshop. Covid-19 slowed down the business, but, today, customers are coming back, and I am able to send my children to school and support other orphans in the neighborhood too.” 

Meet Project's Beneficiaries

The main objectives of Cameroon’s social safety nets are to reduce financial volatility, allow beneficiaries to engage in a small productive investment or income generating activities, and facilitate spending on food, education and health. The project also works against youth unemployment. Young people under 35 years old represent almost half of the participants of the public works program.

Like Fadimatou, Valentin is the head of his family. He is a single father of 3 supporting also his 72-year-old mother. “Despite my degrees, I could only find low-paying jobs, not earning enough to send my kids to school or pay for medical treatment for my mother who is blind. “I was struggling”, says Valentin Yokono, 33. “With the cash earned, I was able to repair the motorcycle and decided to become a moto-taxi driver. And for the first time in my life, I had hope for a better future.” I no longer need to work from dawn to dark, I choose my own work schedule, but more importantly, I earn enough to pay for my mother’s medical treatment and my kids’ school fees.

By the end 2021, the project had supported 177,000 households through Cash Transfers and 101,000 through the Public Works program. These households also benefitted from accompanying measures comprising of information and training to enhance human capital of children as well as to develop or scale up income-generating activities.

The key for Cameroon’s future is providing better opportunities for youth. The Government of Cameroon and the World Bank have launched a new project to expand the coverage of the Cameroon’s social safety program as well as to redouble its support for young men and women. The Adaptive Safety Nets and Economic Inclusion project will support young Cameroonians and it will give other families, like the ones of Fadimatou and Valentin, the opportunity to invest in productive activities, ensure better education and health for their children, and escape poverty.

Moto Taxi driver – Beneficiary of the Public Works program, Yaounde, Cameroon
Valentin Yokono, 33 – Moto Taxi driver – Beneficiary of the Public Works program, Yaounde, Cameroon © Odilia Hebga, World Bank


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