Tanzania: Cash transfers for health and education

Published: April 2017


In Tanzania, the World Bank teamed up with the government to create an innovative conditional cash transfer program that relied on local communities to play a central administrative role in identifying beneficiaries, monitoring conditions, and handling payments. The impact evaluation built into the program found that the cash transfers led to positive changes in both health and education. The program’s effects were greatest among those who needed it most—the poorest of the poor. This suggests that conditional cash transfer systems can be adapted to work well in low-income countries—even in the absence of a strong central government to administer them.


Though the economy in Tanzania continues to grow, poverty remains widespread, especially in rural areas where some 30 million people—three quarters of the population—live. Since 2001, the level of poverty in rural areas has remained stagnant at around 37 percent to 40 percent.


In 2000, the Government of Tanzania, with support from the World Bank, created the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) as part of a broader strategy to reduce poverty by stimulating local economies. Among other activities, TASAF has funded community-run projects to build health clinics and schools, giving communities experience managing funds, hiring contractors, and monitoring projects. In 2010, the national government rolled out the conditional cash transfer program via TASAF, piloting it in three of the country’s poorest districts.


5,000 families representing 13,000 beneficiaries were given up to $18 per month, depending on the family size, conditioned on keeping their children enrolled in school, taking children under the age of seven for regular health checkups, and ensuring that elderly members of the household also went to health clinics on a regular basis. SIEF funded researchers evaluated the impact.


The project had a significant positive impact on children’s health and on household savings and household independence within the community. The evaluation also showed that these programs don’t need to be run centrally to succeed:  communities worked with local government authorities and TASAF to do their own screening and monitoring to identify beneficiaries and ensure they followed conditions for receiving payments.


The Government of Tanzania is scaling up the project to include the country’s 123 districts and two islands. In the first phase, it will cover 250,000 households nationwide and combine the program with a cash-for-work program. The government expects that the program will reach more than 900,000 households within the next two years, creating a comprehensive social safety net that would benefit some 5.5 million of the country’s poorest citizens.  The findings from the pilot may also inform the design and application of 13 other social fund programs in the Africa region.