Developing countries submerged by aid

Poor and rich countries gathered in Accra, Ghana in the beginning of September to come to an agreement about a better organisation of worldwide development aid. Less dissipation, better coordination, more control exercised by developing countries on projects, programs and investment: nobody is against. Then why do things change so slowly?
According to Bernard Petit, Deputy Director General of the European Commission for Development and Relationships with countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, Europe should, on the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, be unanimous and have a leading role. The importance of more coordination in the area of development aid is emphasised by Petit. “Currently not less than 600 projects are operational in the health sector of Tanzania, each has less than a million dollars at its disposition. In Kenya, 29 donors buy medicine through 13 different agencies. If this is drawn out into a scheme it looks more like a wiring scheme of a complex electrical installation than like an efficient and manageable plan to help as many people as possible to obtain the best possible medicine. The amount of bilateral donors has risen from 7 in the early sixties to 53 today, in addition to which, vertical funds, concentrating with a lot of money on one specific theme, appear. About 10 of such funds exist around the topic of climate change, doing all about the same thing”.
The dissipation Petit moans about affects especially the poorest countries which have less capability of management. The World Bank informs for example that Tanzania has received not less than 541 donor missions. According to Daniel Ottolenghi, Chief Development Economist at the European Investment Bank, this is not extraordinary: “In thirty of the poorest development countries the governments receive, each day, year around, at least one aid mission. They are more occupied with fulfilling the donors’ demands than with designing and realising their own development strategy”.
Akihiko Nishio, Head of Concessional Finance and Global Partnerships at the Worldbank, confirms that the costs of the receiving countries are not longer in proportion to the help they receive. “A government of a third world country was in 1960 in touch with an average of 12 partner countries. Today that average has reached about 32. What’s more, despite the fact everybody points at the importance of letting Southern Countries become the owners of their development strategy,  the destination of the development money is more and more determined by the donor country or by the international donor.”
According to Bernard Petit, the European ministers of development aid will, in Accra, plead in favour off a radical abolishment of the condition-policy which constitutes the main obstacle for obtaining that ownership.
In order to allow receiving countries to carry out long term policies, the EU wants to work on a practical task distribution between donors, alignment to the policy choices of the development countries and more predictable aid.
According to Ousmane SY, formal minister of Local Administration in Mali, and laureate of the King Boudewijn International Reward for development in 2004-2005, African countries often lack the capability of expressing and realising their own development priorities. Sy doesn’t plead for more help because “the help arriving today in Africa smothers our societies and discharges our governments from their responsibilities. A project application is written for each problem, in stead of working on development policies. The few means the governments have are solely spend in the capitals. A few years ago in Mali, 87 percent of the government’s budget was spent in Bamoko. Development will never be accomplished this way”.
This is why Ousmane Sy pleads for a far going decentralisation of the development policy, because he is convinced that the closer the political level gets to the people who are supported , the better the means will be spend. As the European Development days in November will focus on the importance of local actors, the European Commision also seems interested in this vision. However, it is not yet clear how to combine the decentralisation of the South with the call for less, and thus bigger donors in the North.
Michele Ndiaye, CEO of the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship in Johannesburg, says it’s not about the amount of actors working on development. “It’s about the ability to canalise, help and to make it beneficial. More aid money should be given to governments so that they are able to enforce their knowledge and abilities with the aim of serving the electors better”. Ndiaye adds immediately that this isn’t a request for a blank cheque. “The ones who ask for development money should understand that the use of it should be followed-up, with the agreement of both parties”. 
In 2007, 60% of all official development money came from the 27 EU countries, gathering a total of 46 billion Euros. The European coordinating Ngo CONCORD warns however that exaggerated optimism is out of place: The EU spent 1,5 billion more on development in 2006 than last year. As repatriation costs for refugees, scholarships and debt abolition are included in those figures, NGO’s do not consider them as reliable.
This relative generosity is converted nor into a comparable impact on the direction taken by the development thought - the weight of the World Bank and the UN is therefore to important- nor into high effectiveness or efficiency. It isn’t however the first time the UN countries have made agreements to improve their development policy.
Joakim Stymne, the Swedish state secretary has promised that the Swedish presidency of the EU in 2009 wants to focus on the promised task repartition – each State Member concentrates on a limited amount of countries and topics- and to make development aid more coherent with other policy areas. Sweden has indeed an exemplary legislation which forces all its ministries to measure the impact of their policies on development countries.
A government point of view of 2008 reconfirms that policy:  “the development policy of the government consists on the one hand on effective and high quality development cooperation and on the other hand on a coherence policy engaging all areas of government. Many other areas of government have access to instruments which could be more effective in the decrease of poverty than those handled within the area of development aid… All government areas and and policy instruments being at the disposal of the government should be used in a coherent and coordinated way to make the contribution of Sweden to Worldwide development as efficient as possible”.
This type of coherence is much ahead of the coordination talked about in Accra and in the Statement of Paris (2005) which will be assessed there. Stymne added that it is important that the Swedish efforts for more coherence should receive support from other member states next year as government areas as agriculture and external trade are mainly common European responsibilities.
The interviews leading to this article were realised during the preparation of the Development Policy Forum which will be organised by Friends of Europe on the 12th of July in Brussels.

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