chapter  9
27 Pages

Aid, development and the state in Africa


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)1 as a region currently receives the highest share of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the world with around one third of overall net ODA flows during the period 2000-7 (Figure 9.1). It is also the leading region in aid receipts in per capita terms (Figure 9.2). A significant number of countries can be classified as ‘aid-dependent’ in the sense that aid represents 15 per cent or more of their GNI (Table 9.1). To an extent, the contemporary history of many SSA countries is closely tied in with what we can call the ‘aid complex’, which includes the various international and national institutions funding and implementing aid projects, the financial and in-kind flows, associated technical assistance, and the various African government and non-government institutions dealing with or created by donor agencies over the past four decades. Foreign aid in Africa has had multiple and contradictory effects. It has, for example, shaped state formation (and ‘deformation’) and state-society relations, affected regional geopolitics, moulded and driven policy regimes, assisted in emergencies, prevented and fuelled conflict, and provided much needed services, infrastructure and capital injections. For some critics, ODA in Africa is mainly an expression of Western imperialist projects (Petras and Veltmeyer, 2005), perhaps even including Chinese aid, which is also interpreted as a new form of imperialism taking advantage of SSA’s vulnerabilities and weak bargaining power (see quotes of this view on Chinese aid in Alden et al., 2008). For others, who are less pessimistic and ‘functionalist’, ODA remains the only realistic and reliable source of foreign finance at least for the medium term, and particularly in a context of global financial crisis.