Experience of cash transfer programming (CTP) in West Africa has traditionally focused on responding to chronic food crises in the Sahelian strip. Since 2015, the intensification of the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin has led to the development of an interest in cash transfers across sectors, a dynamic driven by organizations’ headquarters, drawing lessons from the emergency response in the Middle East and the experimentation with Multipurpose Cash Grants1 (MPGs). While Global Clusters are increasingly looking at the potential of cash transfers to achieve sectoral objectives, humanitarian actors at country level in West Africa are following the trend by reflecting on the applicability of the MPG concept in their area of intervention.
Thus, in 2017, five countries in the region worked on defining a minimum expenditure basket (MEB), aimed at determining the average cost of the basic needs of the target populations, a preliminary step to the design of an MPG. Actors from Cameroon, Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have thus embarked on a new development in the approach to cash transfers in West Africa, also marking a significant evolution in the way aid and humanitarian coordination are conceived. Indeed, the use of the MEB goes beyond the design of the MPG. By monetizing basic needs, across sectors, which can be covered locally, it allows for a clearer understanding of the scope and depth of humanitarian interventions (and social nets, where they are implemented). The MEB is not systematically the amount of future cash transfers. It makes it possible to assess the extent to which these cash transfers cover the basic needs of the beneficiaries, and to measure the gaps, and is therefore not only a coordination tool, but also an advocacy and funding support tool, including for State actors.
This case study is not a “how-to” or “good practice” guide to the definition of the MEB, which remains a very recent concept and a process necessarily rooted in context. Nevertheless, the West African experience, because it encompasses different countries, some of which share the same response to a crisis and similar contexts, offers a unique opportunity to document and compare MEB definition processes. The case study therefore aims to identify success factors, common process elements that have enabled this collective work to be completed, and that inform similar future work in the region and beyond.