In Kenya, Uplifting the Poor and Vulnerable Through a Harmonized National Safety Net System

Before introducing a national safety net program, Kenya was experiencing a high incidence of poverty� around 46.6 % poverty rate. Poverty was also intertwined with higher inequality and vulnerability to shocks, the most significant of which was recurring droughts in Northern Kenya.

Though the Government had started using safety net cash transfers as income support to the poorest and vulnerable households, their coverage remained low with only four percent of the population covered in 2013. Cash transfer programs were also fragmented and uncoordinated with different implementation arrangements leading to a variety of inefficiencies and duplication. The governance and fiduciary controls were also weak due to gaps in the quality of delivery systems across all programs.

There was an urgent need to harmonize the policy, strengthen institutional arrangements, and invest in efficient delivery of cash transfers to leverage their potential to timely address the needs of the poor and vulnerable.


The Program used a new financing instrument called Program for Results Financing (PforR), linking disbursement of funds directly to the achievement of specific program results. The Program builds upon the achievements of existing Investment Project Financing (IPF) in Kenya.

In setting up the National Safety Net Program, technical, social and environmental, and fiduciary assessments allowed the team to take a deeper dive into precise gaps and challenges in the current program which could then be addressed by incentivizing results.


Increased coverage of cash transfers from 1.65 million in 2013 to 5 million people in 2019 (of which 2.3 million are women), exceeding the original target of 4.28 million.

Harmonized policy and program delivery through a consolidated strategy, adopted in 2016, for all cash transfer programs allowed the use of streamlined targeting tool, payment system, and grievance management. The creation of a Social Assistance Unit (SAU) for coordinated implementation of three cash transfer programs under the State Department of Social Protection helped reduce fragmentation and achieve efficiency.

Single Registry of beneficiaries under the National Safety Net Program, put in place in 2015, which is linked to the Integrated Population Registry System, provided a tool for transparent and accountable selection of beneficiaries.

A Harmonized targeting tool for all four cash transfer programs was piloted in 2018. The tool is being refined in 2019 and will be used for future targeting and recertification.

Technology based payments, introduced in 2015, allowed over 930,000 beneficiary households to receive their cash transfers electronically via two factor authentication system. A new payment system was also launched in 2019, which offers beneficiaries a choice to select a payment provider that meets their service needs.

Consolidated management information systems for three cash transfer programs under the State Department of Social Protection enhanced the use of technology for program administration and fiduciary oversight in 2018.

Consolidated Grievance & Case Management system also supported by a Beneficiary Outreach Strategy allowed 80% of beneficiaries to report satisfaction with the National Safety Net Program and its delivery systems in 2018.

Financing of cash transfers institutionalized with steady increase in government financing of cash transfers from 38% in 2013 to 95% in 2019.

Beneficiaries report positive impacts on a range of welfare indicators: (i) 95% reported positive impact on household consumption; (ii) 94% on household dietary diversity; (iii) 93% on school attendance and performance; and (iv) 90% on household health (Source: Project Implementation and Beneficiary Satisfaction Report, 2018 I).

5 million

Receive cash transfers, providing assistance and livelihood support

World Bank Group Contribution

Kenya’s National Safety Net Program for Results financing from IDA, the World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest of $250 million (approved in 2013)

Additional Financing of $50 million which includes $35 million from Crises Response Window (approved in 2017)

Additional Financing to the Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project with IDA financing of $10 million (approved in 2012) complemented the Kenya’s National Safety Net Program by making critical investments in timely and quality achievement of program indicators.

Additional financing of $56.4 million through a Multi Donor Trust Fund, financed by the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), supported areas complementary to the Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project and the National Safety Net Program


The National Safety Net Program developed a framework to harmonize main cash transfer programs. The Government of Kenya continues to make a steady increase in financing of the cash transfers.

The dialogue with the Government of Kenya on results financing included the National Treasury as the key stakeholder while technical details on program implementation and monitoring were agreed with the implementation agency�the State Department of Social Protection. The program also provided a platform to bring together development partners such as the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), World Food Programme, and UNICEF to jointly support the government-led program through respective financing and technical assistance. Joint implementation support missions enabled partners to agree with the Government on how respective partners would best support the Government to address key challenges.

The UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) made direct investments in the Hunger Safety Net Program led by the National Drought Management Authority , a part of the National Safety Net Program, while working with the World Bank through a complementary Multi-Donor Trust Fund linked to the Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project. UNICEF supported policy formulation whereas the World Food Programme provided technical assistance in the development of the single registry and management information systems. Coordination with development partners is guided by joint implementation support missions lead by the World Bank.

Moving Forward

Building upon the success of the National Safety Net Program in 2019, the World Bank has approved the Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project with IDA financing of $250 million from IDA and co-financed by the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) with Pound 66 million.

The Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project aims to further strengthen delivery systems for enhanced access to social and economic inclusion services and shock-responsive safety nets for the poor and vulnerable. While the National Safety Net Program built foundational systems for the delivery of cash transfers, the Kenya Social and Economic Inclusion Project will enhance human capital by promoting investments in the early years and providing pathways to poor households to strengthen their livelihood for self-sufficiency.

Source: The World Bank