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NOVISSI

One of Africa’s smallest economies is plugging social welfare gaps with digital cash transfers

Yomi Kazeem
Member exclusive by Yomi Kazeem

The biggest fear for African countries as the Covid-19 pandemic loomed was the potential shock to under-equipped healthcare systems.

Despite previous experiences with viral epidemics, there was an admission that a sharp spread of coronavirus cases could quickly see local health systems overwhelmed. But as countries on the continent, like counterparts elsewhere, responded to the outbreak with lockdowns and movement restrictions, the economic impactparticularly on vulnerable informal economy workers who depend on daily income for survivalalso became apparent, especially given the broad lack of social safety nets.

For its part, Togo has looked to solve that problem with Novissi, a digital cash transfer program that sends funds to citizens through mobile money. Togo’s president Faure Gnassingbé has said the scheme targets informal workers whose incomes were “disrupted” by lockdowns.  As of mid-April, over 1.1 million Togolese citizens13% of the populationhad registered for Novissi with around 450,000 people (65% of which were women) proving eligible beneficiaries and receiving up to 35% of the minimum wage.

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