Designing Graduation for Government Integration and Scale in Egypt

By Jasveen Bindra, Technical Officer for BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative

The Bab Amal Program, modeled on the Graduation approach, aims to reduce poverty in rural Upper Egypt by targeting 2,400 extreme poor households in the two poorest governorates in the country. The program is funded by the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD), one of the first family donor foundations dedicated to social development in Egypt. With the technical assistance of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI), two local NGOs, Egyptian Human Development Association and Giving Without Limits Association, are implementing the pilots in Sohag and Assiut. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is conducting a randomized evaluation of the program, looking closely at aspects of gender and livelihoods, as well as testing a low cost version of the program most relevant for government integration and scale.

View from a participant’s household in Sohag, Egypt

In the past few years, the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MOSS) in Egypt has rolled out expansive cash transfer programs, most notably Takaful, a conditional cash transfer based on fulfilling specific education, health, and nutrition requirements for children, and Karama, an unconditional cash transfer for people living with disabilities, the elderly, and orphans.¹ These programs provide significant support to millions of poor households, with Takaful alone providing support to 2.25 million poor households. However, a further increase in food prices or any disruption in the cash transfer can increase the vulnerability of poor households. The governorates of Assiut and Sohag with poverty rates of 66% and 65% respectively, which are over double the national poverty line, include households that are highly vulnerable to shocks and can benefit from integrated development programs like the Graduation approach².

Although not implemented by the Egyptian government, the Bab Amal program has been designed to serve as an ally and complement to national social protection. Globally, the Graduation approach has been integrated into existing government social protection, economic inclusion, and livelihoods programming through multiple ways. This includes government or multilateral funded Graduation programs in partnership with local organizations to help build capacity and enhance the government’s pro-poor programming, such as the pilot launched by the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Another model is based on Graduation programs funded and implemented through non government organizations as localized demonstration pilots to inform the national poverty strategy and social protection. The Bab Amal program, a demonstration pilot implemented by NGOs to inform government programs at scale falls under this category, and engages with the national and local government in three key ways.

  1. Through engagement with the national government, the frontline staff or coaches in the Bab Amal program are applying the life skills training curriculum (Wa’i) designed by MOSS and were recently trained on the curriculum by government consultants. Training and coaching on a life skills curriculum is an intervention within the social empowerment pillar, which typically includes topics on WASH, health, and gender, as well as a focus on community integration. This pillar is one of BRAC’s four Graduation pillars.³
BRAC’s foundational Graduation pillars

As the program continues to take shape over the course of the next year, BRAC’s UPGI and local implementors will be paying special attention to further learnings and challenge points related with building Graduation programming at scale in Egypt and beyond. As the world races towards the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030, one thing is for certain: it will take incredible partnership and innovative thinking to reach those most in need and through interventions like the Graduation approach, extreme poverty can be made a thing of the past.

Graduation participants during a savings group meeting in Assiut, Egypt

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[1] The Story of Takaful and Karama Cash Transfer Program, November 15, 2018, World Bank
[2] Localizing the Targets of Sustainable Development Goals at Governorate Level, UNFPA, UNRCO and Basera, January 2018.
[3] BRAC’s Graduation pillars include Social Protection, Livelihoods Promotion, Financial Inclusion, and Social Empowerment (see graphic for details).

Breaking the cycle of extreme poverty by providing a pathway out of persistent uncertainty and destitution through our Graduation programs.

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