In recent years, governments across the continent have expanded social safety net programs in growing recognition of their importance to reducing poverty and creating economic opportunities for vulnerable people.

Yet, the coverage of these programs remains disproportionately low relative to the extent of poverty in the region, reaching on average approximately 10% of the population in African countries.

Where the poor still have limited access to formal safety nets and social assistance, informal support networks that are family and community based (or "kin networks") remain critical resources in helping build resilience and mitigate financial hardship.

For instance, financial transfers within these kin networks enable risk sharing and can help address household shocks.

But, these networks also create social pressures to redistribute income, which might hinder individuals' capacity to save and to reap the benefits of their productivity. For women, the pressure to redistribute earnings may be even greater based on their relatively lower standing.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 28 2021, of The Himalayan Times.