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Respond to COVID-19 in Africa

Support vulnerable families economically impacted by COVID-19

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We’re delivering emergency cash relief for COVID-19.

$M of $M goal
K families of K goal1

As governments impose lockdowns to limit the spread of COVID-19, many families are suddenly unable to continue earning a living. Few have the financial resources to cope with this crisis. For example, in Mathare, an urban slum in Nairobi, 95% say they are eating less due to COVID-19.

This is the time for direct giving — it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it allows each individual to pursue their own specific needs. And most importantly, it provides the dignity of choice and respect.

Our 4-step payment process is now fully contactless.

After 10 years of delivering digital cash we took all of our operations remote in 29 days. We replaced all in-person interactions with new remote protocols for targeting, identity verification, and follow-up.

1. Target

To find recipients fast, we’re partnering with community-based organizations, health providers, governments, and cell network carriers to identify vulnerable populations in need –– people hard hit by COVID-19 who were living in extreme poverty before the crisis.

2. Enroll

Before COVID-19 we hosted community barazas (village meetings) and then went door-to-door to enroll recipients. Today, we have moved to a 100% contactless enrollment model, with our remote call center staff conducting enrollment surveys via phone calls or text messages.

3. Pay

We use mobile money to send transfers that cover recipients’ basic needs for two to six months, depending on the country and program. Recipients receive a text message alert when the funds have arrived on their phone.

4. Follow-up & audit

We call each recipient to verify receipt of funds and evaluate recipients’ experience with our program. In addition, our internal audit team follows up with a subset of recipients to identify and investigate potential fraud.

Operations are live in 4 countries.

  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Rwanda
Kenya – supporting people in urban slums

We’re sending cash to families living in the Mathare, Kibera, and other informal settlements within Nairobi.

    • Urban slums are already seeing the impacts of COVID-19. In a recent survey of GiveDirectly recipients, 97% of recipients said they have lost income due to COVID-19.
    • Via the non-profit SHOFCO, we’re able to reach 20k+ young people living in Mathare and Kibera. We are working with other local orgs to rapidly increase the number of households we can reach.
    • Each household will receive three monthly $30 payments. We verify each recipients’ identity, obtain consent, and send three monthly $30 payments to their digital MPesa wallets – all 100% remotely.
    • First payments went out on April 15, 2020. We are currently working to reach 50k+ new individuals over the next two months.
Liberia – contactless enrollment in areas with low cell phone usage

GiveDirectly is testing contactless outreach and enrollment of vulnerable recipients in Liberia to develop a digital model that can work in areas that lack infrastructure.

    • We’re partnering with peer NGOs to enroll vulnerable recipients, including pregnant and lactating women and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis patients. We are also testing the feasibility of enrolling recipients based on cell phone data.
    • Each recipient will receive $48–72 per month for 6 months in the pilot program via the mobile carriers MTN or Orange Mobile Money.
    • First transfers went out July 16, 2020. The initial pilot covers 1,000 recipients and if successful we hope to scale to deliver cash to tens of thousands of Liberians during this crisis.
Malawi – urban cash response

We’re targeting vulnerable households in urban areas affected by the economic downturn from COVID-19.

    • We’re targeting families in the Mgona area of Lilongwe. We are working with community based organizations to target families in need.
    • Each household will receive three monthly payments of $47 each. After verification of recipients’ identity we deliver the payments remotely to their phone using Airtel mobile money.
    • First transfers went out July 16, 2020. In the coming months, we plan to target over 4,000 households.
Rwanda –– partnering with the Gov of Rwanda to reach vulnerable households.

GiveDirectly is partnering with the Government of Rwanda to enroll recipients in Kigali who suffered acutely from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

    • We’re partnering with the Government of Rwanda to enroll lists of vulnerable recipients, many are women and youth that are at high risk of economic hardship due to COVID-19.
    • Each recipient will receive two transfers of 153.21k RWF (~$150). The transfers are sent approximately 30 days apart via mobile money.
    • First transfers went out June 11, 2020. The initial pilot reaches over 4,000 recipients. Post-pilot, we aim to have capacity to deliver cash to upwards of 50,000 recipients in coming months, funding contingent.

Frequently asked questions


+Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, donations are tax-deductible in the United States. GiveDirectly is a registered 501(c)(3), and our U.S. federal EIN is 27-1661997.

+I’m an existing GiveDirectly donor – will my donations go to COVID-19?

If you’ve donated to our “Any cash transfers Africa” fund, we’ll allocate your donation wherever it’s needed most within our Africa programs. Today, that means your donation may help families impacted by COVID-19 in Africa.

Donations with specific allocations (refugees, basic income) will continue to be reserved for those programs. Neither “COVID-19 – Africa response” or “Any cash transfers Africa” donations will go to our U.S. response.

+How much of my donation does a recipient receive?

In 2019, on average across all of our programs, 85 cents of every dollar donated was delivered to recipients. The remainder was spent on key aspects of our operations: identifying the recipients most in need, preventing fraud, and ensuring a high bar of customer service.

+How do I know recipients will spend cash appropriately?

The research is clear: households living in poverty are some of the most effective spenders around. Despite the stereotypes, recipients of cash do not systematically waste or misuse it. Common concerns that people will spend money on vices have been consistently disproven (Evans and Popova, 2016).

+Can I sign up to be a recipient?

Unfortunately no, GiveDirectly is not able to respond to individual requests for cash transfers. In order to ensure fairness and equity in our processes, we only select recipients using our eligibility process detailed above.


+How do you decide who receives money?

Our top priority right now is moving quickly to get cash to vulnerable families. To start, we plan to target families in urban areas, where we expect the economic effects of COVID-19 to hit hardest and fastest.

To find recipients fast, we’re partnering with community-based organizations, health providers, governments, and cell network carriers to identify vulnerable populations in need.

+Can I choose to whom to give?

No; you cannot choose an individual recipient. Practically speaking, if we allowed this we would risk being regulated as a money transfer service and losing our charitable status. Philosophically, we aim to target the poorest possible recipients in high impact areas of COVID-19, and not those with compelling profiles or narratives.

+How do you prevent fraud?

We use a mix of prevention, detection, and auditing techniques to manage fraud. These include, for example, defined staff roles, spot checks of data captured in the field, remote GPS coordinate checks, and independent follow-up calls with recipients, among others. We use government-issued IDs and other documents to confirm the recipients’ place of residence.

+Are you directly implementing the program?

Yes — as we work to target particularly vulnerable recipients impacted by COVID-19, we will occasionally work with partners (like SHOFCO) to reach recipients more rapidly. We will continue to own the end-to-end implementation process.

As we scale, we will use a combination of (a) our own existing databases of low-income households, (b) rosters provided by local NGO partners whom we have vetted, and (c) rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through our partner mobile network operators. Specific approaches will vary across countries.

+Who is SHOFCO?

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.


1 Transfer sizes (including ops and processing costs) for our Africa COVID Relief efforts range from $100 to $200, depending on the country. Our “people funded” estimate assumes a conservative $222.22 per transfer for our Africa programs.