A book-launch seminar promoting Smart Aid for African Development.
Professor Richard Joseph - Professor of International History and Politics, Northwestern University Alexandra Gillies - Cambridge University Paolo De Renzio - Oxford University / ODI
David Booth - Research Fellow, Africa Power and Politics Programme, ODI
Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent on foreign aid to sub-Saharan Africa, a sure path to growth and development has not been found. An understanding of the critical link between misgovernance and stalled development is no longer restricted to academic circles, but is now regularly reflected in official policy pronouncements. Yet we still lack compelling strategies for generating modes of governance in Africa that would build and sustain key public and private institutions rather than erode them. An indigenous development dynamic has eluded the continent. As a result, the massive aid flows committed by international donors merely replace the continuing drainage of African financial and human capital out of Africa.
The authors of Smart Aid for African Development believe that part of the solution to Africa’s development conundrum lies in identifying forms of international cooperation with Africa that go beyond anything previously attempted. Starting from a robust, research-based understanding of politics and governance in Africa, they investigate how aid can be put to 'smarter' uses. By identifying a set of concrete proposals of their own, they hope to stimulate debate on a new model of development cooperation that could work for Africa.
Smart Aid for African Development. Edited by Richard Joseph and Alexandra Gillies. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers. Published October 2008. Paperback ISBN 978-1-58826-632-3.
Purchase Smart Aid for African Development from Amazon
David Booth opened the meeting by commenting on the shared premises and objectives of Smart Aid for African Development and ODI’s Power and Politics in Africa Programme.
Alexandra Gillies, co-editor of Smart Aid for African Development, provided a brief overview of the book’s:
The book originated in a 2005 conference organised by Northwestern University to stimulate grounded discussion about what works in aid – how aid could be smarter for development – in the lead up to G8 Gleneagles Summit.
Avoiding the polarised positions of both the aid optimists and aid pessimists, the book’s contributors critically analyse the role of aid in strengthening public and private institutions, recognising its value but also the need to build on local resources. The book’s chapters are organised in three main parts:
The editors discovered a surprising amount of consensus in the divergent contributions. A prominent theme is the importance of incentives – the underlying factors and motivations that determine behaviour – and the failure of donors to appreciate and respond to the incentive environment faced by local actors. Donors instead rely on weak material inducements and, particularly around governance reform, are often satisfied with rhetorical commitment. This point was illustrated with examples from general budget support in Uganda (Barkan) and the contrasting cases of debt relief to Nigeria and Cameroon (Callaghy).
Paolo de Renzio, one of the book’s contributors, based his presentation on his chapter and two previous articles written at ODI (in Development Policy Review, 24(6) 2006, and African Affairs, 106, 2007) on the contradictions in aid relations, focusing on accountability.
De Renzio observed that the promises made at Gleneagles for more aid have largely failed to materialise and argued that – apart from financial constraints – there are two main reasons for this. Donors have doubts about:
The Paris Agenda attempts to address these dual doubts but its solutions contain contradictions that prevent aid from being smarter. Two core aspects of the Paris agenda were used to illustrate this.
De Renzio concluded by saying that these underlying contradictions need to be addressed if aid is to become smarter. In principle there is nothing wrong with either the Paris Agenda or the desire to strengthen accountability mechanisms, but improved implementation requires that local political context is taken into account when interventions are designed and the complexity of donors’ role in recipient countries is recognised.
Richard Joseph, co-editor of Smart Aid for African Development, addressed three questions:
In doing so, Joseph made 7 main points:
In conclusion, Joseph claimed that four things are necessary for donors to bring about their desired development outcomes.
David Booth recommended the book, commenting that the brief presentations could not bring out its full depth. He felt that three of the chapters in particular go to the heart of smart aid:
Booth opened the floor for discussion by asking: does aid need to be smarter and, if so, are the things proposed by the presenters smart enough?
Points raised in the discussion included: