Politicization of Non-state Cash Transfers: The Cases of Uganda and Tanzania

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Social cash transfers (CTs) have expanded considerably in Africa over the last decade. While the largest programmes are run by public institutions, non-state actors are increasingly becoming involved, but have attracted less academic attention. CTs are particular in that they are more fungible and liquid than other types of welfare provision, meaning that they are more difficult to control for both providers and governments. This article explores state strategies in relation to CTs by non-state actors focusing on when and how they are politicized. We analyse politicization from two intertwined vantage points. Firstly, we argue that the distributional logic in a society’s social contract contributes to understanding how and when cash transfers become politicized. We analyse the distributional logic along a continuum from universalist to partisan and apply this analytical lens to Tanzania and Uganda. Secondly, we suggest that politicization is intertwined with how the states coordinate non-state-CTs. We show that in Tanzania non-state-CTs are integrated into the state’s framework of social protection, while in Uganda they primarily operate on the margins of the state. In both cases, however, the state retains control over non-state-CTs and uses them politically, albeit in different ways, in order to maintain its relations with important constituencies. Hence, our analytical framework, which combines analysis of the distributional logic in the social contract and the mode of coordination, enables us to unpack when and how non-state-CTs are politicized, as well as how the tensions between governments and non-state-CTs have been handled differently in the two countries.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForum for Development Studies
VolumeLatest Articles
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • cash transfer
  • NGOs
  • non-state
  • politics
  • social contract
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

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