The local politics of social protection: Programmatic versus non-programmatic distributive politics in Kenya’s cash transfer programmes

Policy brief State

  • A feature of many social protection programmes in Africa and elsewhere around the world is the delegation of significant responsibility to leaders and organisations at the local level.
  • This brief looks at the extent to which social programmes are implemented programmatically —that is, according to the formal rules—or non-programmatically—that is, in a manner subject to political influence.
  • To address this question, the author analyses the local implementation of social programmes in Kenya, with a focus on the country’s expanding cash transfer programmes.
  • To generate local constituency level indicators of programmatic and non-programmatic implementation, the study involved an original survey and interviews with local-level bureaucrats in 112 of Kenya’s 290 constituencies.
  • The author finds that Kenya’s main cash transfer programmes are implemented programmatically in a large share of constituencies despite Kenya’s reputation to the contrary.
  • The evidence suggests that programme design and formal rules guiding the beneficiary selection process play a central role in discouraging local politicians from attempting to influence the cash transfer programmes.