This study assessed the costs and cost-efficiency of a mobile cash transfer implemented in Tapoa Province, Burkina Faso in the MAM’Out randomized controlled trial from June 2013 to December 2014, using mixed methods and taking a societal perspective by including costs to implementing partners and beneficiary households.
Data were collected via interviews with implementing staff from the humanitarian agency and the private partner delivering the mobile money, focus group discussions with beneficiaries, and review of accounting databases. Costs were analyzed by input category and activity-based cost centers. cost-efficiency was analyzed by cost-transfer ratios (CTR) and cost per beneficiary. Qualitative analysis was conducted to identify themes related to implementing electronic cash transfers, and barriers to efficient implementation.
The CTR was 0.82 from a societal perspective, within the same range as other humanitarian transfer programs; however the intervention did not achieve the same degree of cost-efficiency as other mobile transfer programs specifically. Challenges in coordination between humanitarian and private partners resulted in long wait times for beneficiaries, particularly in the first year of implementation. Sensitivity analyses indicated a potential 6% reduction in CTR through reducing beneficiary wait time by one-half. Actors reported that coordination challenges improved during the project, therefore inefficiencies likely would be resolved, and cost-efficiency improved, as the program passed the pilot phase.
Despite the time required to establish trusting relationships among actors, and to set up a network of cash points in remote areas, this analysis showed that mobile transfers hold promise as a cost-efficient method of delivering cash in this setting. Implementation by local government would likely reduce costs greatly compared to those found in this study context, and improve cost-efficiency especially by subsidizing expansion of mobile money network coverage and increasing cash distribution points in remote areas which are unprofitable for private partners.