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Africa's Rapidly Changing Aid Landscape: The Increasing Inappropriateness of Political Conditionalities and Donor's Failure to Respond

Sarah Hardus
University of Amsterdam
Sarah Hardus
University of Amsterdam

Over the past decade African aid recipients have managed to decrease their dependency on foreign aid. Because of high sustained economic growth many African countries have achieved lower-middle income country status, allowing them to access loans on the commercial market. Moreover (re-)emerging donors like China provide African governments with alternative source of financing to aid provided by the OECD/DAC donors. Aid as a percentage of African government’s national budget is rapidly going down, decreasing recipient government’s willingness to comply with political conditionalities of the OECD/DAC donors.

Over the past years both donors and recipients have increasingly come to recognize the ineffectiveness and inappropriateness of political conditionalities. Using fieldwork data collected in Zambia, Ghana and Uganda, this paper shows that despite this recognition DAC donors fail to come up with an adequate response to the changing aid landscape. While some donors see political aid modalities like budget support as a last resort to be able to influence policy making in recipient countries, others actively discuss a move towards less political aid modalities. However, DAC donor’s hands are tied by the international standards and agreements surrounding aid which they have signed up to over the years. Supported by recent interview data with both recipient and government agencies, the paper shows that the only thing left for the DAC donors to do at the moment is to accept less compliance with political conditionalities, giving recipient government increasing amounts of policy space.
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