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  • Report
  • 31 January 2024

The role of ODA in delivering social protection in Kenya

This report provides background on the role of ODA in delivering social assistance in Kenya. Using three case study programmes, it examines aid disbursement trends, programme impacts and key lessons.

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Official development assistance (ODA) is facing unparalleled pressures from growing, competing demands including humanitarian and crisis response, national development priorities, and investment in global public goods (such as tackling climate change), among others. Development Initiatives (DI) seeks to highlight the value of ODA in programmes that are national priorities to recipient countries. In addition, DI aims to enhance the understanding of enabling factors that contribute to improving aid impact.

Led by national demand for international finance data and evidence on its most appropriate use, DI embarked on producing a series of country case study reports to consider how aid has been more effective in specific development sectors in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda (forthcoming), including trends, the factors that unlock the value of aid, and the challenges that lie ahead.

This country report for Kenya provides evidence on the role and contribution of official development assistance (ODA) in the delivery of social assistance programmes. It first provides a background and overview of ODA disbursements to Kenya – both generally and specifically to the social protection sector. Then, drawing on secondary data obtained from various impact evaluation studies and key informant interviews, the report sheds light on how ODA and other factors have enabled the establishment and implementation of three specific social assistance programmes (chosen due the availability of impact data):

  • Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC)
  • Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP)
  • Home-Grown School Meals Programme (HGSM)

The report finds that between 2012 and 2021, just 1.3% of ODA disbursed to Kenya went to the social protection sector. There was rapid growth in ODA, peaking at US$89.5 million in 2013, but this fell to US$32.2 million in 2021. Over this time, financing to social assistance programmes continued its trend of shifting from ODA to domestic financing.

Our review of impact evaluation reports shows that ODA played a catalytic role in the design, rollout and expansion of the three social assistance programmes studied. The programmes improved the welfare of beneficiary households. Factors beyond ODA that enabled this success include: enabling policy framework, government commitment, alignment of priorities and multistakeholder partnership facilitated sustainability.

Detailed findings, along with lessons for the effective investment of ODA in social assistance programmes, are provided in the executive summary and report. A second Kenya-focused paper looks closer at the potential for ODA to further strengthen the impacts of social assistance programmes.

Download the full report.

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Executive summary

Key findings

The social protection sector saw a rapid growth in ODA between 2005 and 2013, but disbursements have reduced significantly in recent years.

ODA disbursement to the social protection sector in Kenya

ODA disbursement to the social protection sector in Kenya

Line chart showing how the social protection sector in Kenya saw a rapid growth in ODA between 2005 and 2013, but disbursements have reduced significantly in recent years.

Source: Development Initiatives based on data from OECD DAC CRS database

Notes: Data in US$ constant 2020 prices.

  • ODA disbursement to the social protection sector peaked at US$89.5 million in 2013 – nearly a sevenfold increase from 2005. However, disbursements reduced to US$23.2 million in 2014, but increased to US$46.9 million in 2020 in part due to grants earmarked for Covid-19 recovery.
  • Disbursement to the sector grew at a modest rate of 5% between 2014 and 2021, significantly slower compared with the 44% growth between 2005 and 2013.
  • Increase in disbursements between 2005 and 2013 was driven mainly by establishment of new programmes such as HSNP and expansion of existing programmes such as HGSM.
  • Reduction in disbursements after 2014 is attributed to the agreement between the government and its development partners to gradually transfer programme funding and implementation responsibilities to the government

ODA played a catalytic role in the design, rollout and expansion of social assistance programmes.

ODA contributed to the design and implementation of these programmes by:

  • Providing the financial resources that supported programme pilot, design and expansion, particularly at the early stages when domestic funding was little.
  • Supporting institutional capacity strengthening efforts through development of skills, sector policies and enabling infrastructure.
  • Financing impact evaluations that provided the evidence that justified continued investments in the programmes and lessons for strengthening implementation.
  • Facilitating access to technical support that ensured adoption of innovative approaches in programme implementation.

Apart from ODA, other enabling factors include:

  • Government commitment, demonstrated by its increased funding to the programmes facilitated sustainability as donor funding reduced.
  • National policy frameworks provided a basis for setting and aligning priorities and committing the government to ensure the sustainability of the programmes.
  • Alignment of the programmes’ objectives with the needs of vulnerable communities generated political goodwill, catalysing investment by donors and the government.
  • Partnership and effective multistakeholder coordination enabled complementarity and access to a wide range of resources for programme implementation.

A review of impact evaluation reports shows that the three programmes improved the welfare of beneficiary households.

  • CT-OVC has contributed to a reduction in poverty in beneficiary households by enhancing consumption and investment in productive assets. It has also enhanced access to basic services including healthcare, education and birth registration. Child labour and the risk of HIV among adolescents and teenage pregnancies have also reduced in beneficiary households.
  • HSNP has income multiplier effects in the beneficiary countries. It supports livelihood diversification, promotes food and nutrition security and enables beneficiary households to mitigate the worst effects of poverty.
  • HGSM has facilitated an increase in real incomes in rural areas, enhanced the food security of children, and reduced the burden on parents to feed their children. It has also contributed to improved school attendance, enrolment and attentiveness of children in class in beneficiary schools.
  • However, these programmes still face key challenges due to resource constraints. These include low expenditure, inadequacy of cash transfer amounts, limited programme coverage and operational challenges.

Key lessons for effective investment of ODA in social assistance programmes

Prioritise building institutional capacity: sustainability requires proactive and effective investment of ODA in building the capacity of public institutions to ensure a seamless transition to domestic financing. Strengthening the capacity of public institutions that implement social assistance programmes enables the government to take over programme financing, management and implementation responsibilities.

Promote government leadership in resource allocation and policy framework: aligning ODA to national priorities, implementing ODA-funded programmes through public institutions and developing enabling policy frameworks are critical for gaining government commitment and national ownership. Importantly, the transfer of funding responsibilities to the government must be accompanied by efforts aiming to increase tax revenue and prioritising social assistance programmes in budgetary allocation.

Invest in continuous evidence generation: regular monitoring and periodic impact evaluations provide the evidence that can generate donor interest and political goodwill, leading to improved funding by donors and the government, as well as informing programme design and implementation.

Develop enabling national policy frameworks: national policy frameworks must be developed to facilitate alignment of ODA to national priorities and enable citizens to hold their government to account.

Create functional multistakeholder coordination platforms: a multistakeholder partnership, based on mutual respect and trust, facilitates access to a diverse pool of financial and technical support, but it inevitably creates coordination challenges for the government. It is therefore critical to establish government-led coordination structures that clearly define the responsibilities of various stakeholders and leadership arrangements.

Develop funding and implementation transition plans at the outset: a clear plan, developed at the outset, is critical for effective transitioning of funding and programme implementation responsibilities from donors to the government. The transition plans should promote consultations between the government and donors to identify capacity gaps that have to be filled before donor exit. The transition process should include technical support that enables the government to gradually build institutional capacity, develop enabling policies and integrate aid-funded programmes into the national budget.