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Led by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) with support from Concern Worldwide, this research aims to answer the key question: Are electronic transfers more cost-efficient than traditional manual based cash delivery methods, and under what conditions? 

Cash is increasingly offered to households in humanitarian emergencies as an alternative to in-kind aid. Under certain conditions cash may have advantages over other instruments, such as greater acceptability, utility and flexibility for people affected by disasters. There is now widespread interest in the additional benefits from delivering cash using technology such as mobile phones or electronic bank cards – ’e-transfers’ – rather than manually. However, several barriers have impeded the take-up of the technology, of which one is their cost.

The Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) commissioned this research to find out more about the cost of using electronic payment mechanisms (e-payments) for emergency cash transfers. The research draws on case studies of two countries, Kenya and Somalia, analysing the cost-efficiency (and where possible information on cost-effectiveness) of seven emergency cash transfer programmes implemented between 2009 and 2013: four using mobile money, one using a smart card and two using a traditional manual distribution method. It shows the administrative cost of delivering the cash transfer, broken down by activity (designing the programme, registering beneficiaries etc.), and identifies the factors that improve or decrease overall cost-efficiency.

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