UBI in Africa


The Belgian charity Eight, which experiments in Uganda, will begin paying a basic income in October 2021 in a village in Maniema province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the time of writing (April 2021), the village and the amount of the payments had not been determined.


The Kenya experiment is the largest and most long-term unconditional basic income project ever.

In the West and Central Kenya counties in which the study is conducted, approximately 35% of people are below the poverty line. The state has set the threshold at $15 per month for a villager and $28 per month for an urban dweller.

The experiment was launched in 2016 and runs for 12 years. A total of 20,000 people from 197 villages will receive basic income. Additionally, residents of 100 villages participate as a control group. All villages are poor, even by Kenyan standards.

GiveDirectly is an American non-profit organization that has long been fighting extreme poverty in East Africa. The organization has raised private donations to fund the experiment, including a half-million-dollar donation from eBay creator Pierre Omidyar Network.

The experiment has a budget of $30 million, 85-90% of which is earmarked for unconditional basic income payments. Payouts began in 2018.

Participants in the experiment are divided into groups as follows:

1. Observation groups:
1) Long-term payout group: 44 villages (nearly 5,000 people) receive the equivalent of $0.75 per day per adult in Kenyan shillings per month for 12 years;
2) A group of short-term payments: 80 villages (over 7,000 people) received the same amount of basic income each month for 2 years;
3) Lump sum payment group: 71 villages (over 8,500 people) cumulatively received the same amount of basic income as the 2nd group for the entire experiment period, but in a one-time payment of $500 at once;
4) Control group: 100 villages with no basic income.

2. Pilot groups: 2 villages received the same monthly base income as the long-term and short-term payment groups for 12 years. They did not formally participate in the study, so the organizers could talk to them in more detail about living with a basic income.

Prior to the start of the payments, questionnaires were administered to recipients in all of the villages. Additional questionnaires were filled out by elders and local business owners.

A report with preliminary results of the first short-term survey was published in December 2020. Due to isolation due to COVID-19, researchers conducted a telephone survey in May-June 2020 to find out the impact of unconditional basic income on the pandemic.

Key findings from the report:
– On the eve of the survey, hunger in villages with a basic income decreased by 5-11% (the average in the control group was 68%). And this effect was much more pronounced in the long-term payment group.
– Morbidity decreased by 9-14%, with illnesses other than COVID-19, as there were only 12 cases in 2 towns in Kenya at the time of the survey. This figure was weakly affected by health care, which was virtually unchanged, with threefold decrease in health care utilization, by 3-5%.
– There was less exposure to depression in the short- and long-term payment groups.
– By the end of 2019, non-agricultural small business growth of 5% and significant gains in small business profits were recorded. At the same time, labor and farm income did not change significantly. However, due to the pandemic in 2020, these businesses suffered as well as everyone else, losing more than 70% of their previous income.

In conclusion, the researchers concluded that unconditional basic income did not produce significant results by the time of the survey, as in other experiments. This is due to the simultaneous impact of 2 shocks that were in effect during the survey period (summer 2020): the low temperature season in Kenya and COVID-19. Therefore, all of the gains in income growth and other indicators observed in the previous period were virtually nullified by the summer of 2020. For example, in the control group, only 39% of the population experienced hunger in 2019 and 68% in the summer of 2020.

Note. In the process of recruiting Kenyans to participate in the experiment, organizers encountered an unexpected obstacle and curiosity.


Discussion and implementation

Namibia’s unconditional basic income was first discussed at government level in 2002, when the country’s tax consortium (NAMTAX) developed a proposal to address extreme poverty. In 2005 there was a debate about the right of every citizen of the country to receive a monthly basic income of N$100 (about $13) until retirement age, when the basic income would be replaced by a pension of N$500.

This led to the creation of the Basic Income Coalition, which included:
– Council of Churches;
– Legal Aid Center (LAC);
– National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW);
– Non-Governmental Organizations Governing Body (NANGOF);
– Labour Resources and Research Institute (LaRRI);
– National Youth Service (NYC);
– Governing body of AIDS organizations (NANASO);
– Church Alliance for Orphans (CAFO).

In 2006, the Coalition initiated an experiment with unconditional basic income to prove its effectiveness in practice.

Based on the results of the experiment, researchers estimated that N$1.2-1.6 billion, or about 2-3% of GDP, would be needed to pay the basic income on a national level. Implementation of the project was deemed feasible because the country’s fiscal capacity exceeds 30% of GDP.

Despite realistic estimates, public support, and the impressive results of the experiment, the Namibian government focused its energies on creating jobs and a food bank, which began operating in 2016.

In 2017, Namibia’s Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare considered introducing a basic income for citizens between the ages of 19 and 59.

In the spring of 2020, in response to the pandemic, the government implemented, among other support measures, one-time payments of N$750 ($45) to the neediest segments of the population.


The Namibian experiment was implemented over a period of 2 years from January 2008 to December 2009 inclusive. It is the first experiment of its kind to be launched in a developing country. As a place for it the Otjiwero-Omitara settlement with a population of about 1 thousand people was chosen. It was financed by private donations.

For 2 years, every resident under the age of 60 registered in the settlement as of 2007 received a coveted $100 Namibian basic income each month without any conditions.

In analyzing the results, the researchers encountered some difficulties. During the period of the experiment, relatives of residents receiving basic income migrated to the settlement. Although new arrivals were not eligible for payments, people distributed the funds received by locals to all, preventing their relatives who came from other villages from starving to death. Migration significantly affected the results of the study, especially in estimating per capita figures, which were significantly underestimated. For example, per capita income was N$89 in January 2008 and only N$67 in November.

Interim results after the first year of the experiment:
– Hunger decreased: the rate of child malnutrition dropped from 42% to 17% in just 6 months, and to 10% after 11 months.
– Extreme poverty was reduced from 76% to 37%, and in families without immigrant relatives to 16%, i.e. almost fivefold!
– Unemployment decreased: the share of the working population (over 15 years old) increased from 44% to 55%, which led to an increase in labor income.
– The number of self-employed people and those who opened their own business (baking bread, making bricks, sewing clothes) increased.
– Increased economic activity of the population led to the creation of a local market.
– The number of children regularly attending school doubled (up to 90%). This was due to the need to pay school fees, which almost all parents could afford. Most families were able to buy school uniforms for their children. These figures include Namibians who migrated – without them the numbers would have been even higher.
– School performance has improved. The dropout rate dropped from 40 percent to 5 percent in just six months and was down to zero after 11 months.
– There was an opportunity to seek medical care. The cost of a visit to a health clinic was $4 Namibian dollars. With basic income the number of visits increased by more than 5 times, which consequently led to an increase in the clinic’s income.
– The population’s debts decreased: average debt fell by a factor of nearly 1.5 (from N$1,215 to N$772).
– The population’s increased savings led to investments in the purchase of inventory and tools, livestock, and poultry.
– The overall crime rate decreased by 42%, including theft of various types of property by 20 to 43%.
– HIV-positive people were able to get access to medication. The significance of the result was due to the AIDS epidemic in Namibia, where the disease is the first cause of death among the population.
– There has been an increase in community activism, cohesion and interaction: Basic Income recipients formed a community committee of 18 people to advise on how best to spend the money. For example, the committee’s activities led to an agreement with alcohol sellers to ban the sale of alcohol on Basic Income Day. As a result, there has been no increase in alcoholism.
– Women’s dependence on men has decreased, reducing forced prostitution. This is a very significant result for a country with pronounced gender inequality, violence against women and children, and trafficking in children for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.

Although the experiment officially ended in December 2009, each participant continued to receive an unconditional basic monthly income of N$80 until March 2012.
Following the results of the experiment, Claudia and Dirk Haarmann published a book in 2019, The Basic Income Grant of Otjivero, Namibia – 10 Years.


In a pandemic, the government of Togo supported more than 12% of citizens through monthly direct payments. A large proportion of the recipients were women without formal employment. A total of about $20 million was allocated from the budget.


The U01 Busibi Village Experiment (2017-2019)

The Belgian charity Eight launched a 2-year experiment in Uganda in January 2017.
As the founders of Eight are documentary filmmaker Steven Janssens and sociologist Maarten Goethals, the experiment is to result in a documentary about the impact of basic income on people’s lives, “Crazy Money.”

The researchers were interested in four basic questions:
– access to health care;
– participation of girls and women in education;
– economic development;
– people’s participation in public life.

The experiment began in the village of Busibi, subsequently designated U01, with 50 families. The basic income was paid from January 14, 2017 to January 14, 2019 and was 16€ per adult and 8€ per child.

The main results of the experiment in the village of Busibi (U01):
– The money was spent mainly on food (almost 50%), medicine and health care (almost 40%), clothing (almost 40%), education (almost 30%) and set aside as savings (about 35%).
– More than 50% of recipients invested in seeds, tools, and fertilizer, as well as increasing the amount of land they farmed.
– Spending on destructive goods (alcohol and cigarettes) was less than 5%. Even less was spent on gambling.
– The quality and variety of food improved and the consumption of clean drinking water increased.
– Fifty-five percent of recipients reported improved health.
– Residents reduced their debts and began saving: the savings rate increased from 15% to almost 70%.
– The independence of women in relationships and decision-making has increased: according to the answers of men, joint decisions were made more than 50% of the time, according to the answers of women, – 40% of the time, according to the answers of children, – 35-45% of the time.
– Entrepreneurship increased 10-fold (from 2 to 20 companies): during the experiment 25 companies/entrepreneurs started operations, 7 of which later closed down, and 18 are still operating.
– A construction and renovation boom began: many clay thatched huts were replaced by permanent stone houses with iron roofs.
– 80% of the recipients experienced life satisfaction.
– ¼ of the population noted a decrease in domestic violence.
– There was confidence in the future and less fear of the unexpected.
– There was a rallying of people in the implementation of joint projects and beautification: jointly built houses and roads, attended public meetings to solve common problems.
– The number of children attending school regularly increased from 50% to 93%.

Experiments in villages U02, U03, U04 (2019-2022)

The results of the Busibi Village experiment inspired the researchers to raise additional funds and further payments. Soon Eight continued the basic income payments of €16 per adult and €8 per child in the following villages:
– Village U02 – Chiataruga: base income payments are paid from December 05, 2019 to December 05, 2021.
– Village U03 – Katugo: the basic income is payable from December 20, 2020 to December 20, 2022.
– Village U04 – Kigombe: base income is payable from December 20, 2020 to December 20, 2022.


In South Africa, the basic income movement has been led by the Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) since 2006.

The introduction of a basic income in South Africa is supported by the Purple Cow party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and billionaire businessman Johann Rupert.

In July 2020, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu announced the government’s intentions to phase in unconditional basic income throughout the state. This was facilitated by the pandemic and by the country’s introduction of temporary payments to the population.

The African National Congress (ANC) has prepared a document for discussion with several phases:
– The first, starting in October 2020, payments to 13 million unemployed and economically active residents between the ages of 19 and 59, the group that received coronavirus amounts before October 2020;
– the last – payment of basic income to all citizens between the ages of 19 and 59 (about 33 million people) in addition to all existing benefits and pensions in the country.

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Universal Basic Income: pros and cons, countries with UBI