In Kenya, Universal Basic Income Offers Possible Solution to Poverty

Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been gaining a lot of traction this year: One Canadian province is considering a pilot project, and both Finland and Silicon Valley have also shown interest in the idea as a way to transform existing welfare systems.

Now, a charity in Africa is giving it a go on the ground. Vox reports that GiveDirectly will provide about 6,000 people in Kenya with a “basic income” — about $250-$400 USD — for the next 10 years or more, creating the first large scale, long-term documented study of the effects of UBI. It’s also the first such effort in a developing country.

A charity’s radical experiment: giving 6,000 Kenyans enough money to escape poverty for a decade

GiveDirectly already has a solid and successful history of cash aid programs, having previously used cellphone payment systems in Kenya and Uganda: “A randomized evaluation of the charity found that recipients ate more and experienced less hunger, invested in expensive but worthwhile assets like iron roofs and farm animals, and reported higher psychological well-being. They were less hungry, richer, and all-around happier.” As such, they’re uniquely positioned to show real results, and to influence the way we treat both global aid programs and future welfare reform.

Read more about cash aid in our interview with a humanitarian field worker.

“Don’t Send Coats”: How Cash Aid is Transforming Humanitarian Response

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