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The Politics of Aid: African Strategies for Dealing with Donors


  • Whitfield, Lindsay
    (Research Fellow at the Global Economic Governance Programme, Department of Politics and International Relations and University College, University of Oxford.)


This book presents an original approach to understanding the relationship between official aid agencies and aid-receiving African governments. The first part provides a challenge to the hazy official claims of aid donors that they have stopped trying to force African governments to do what 'we' think is best for 'them' and instead are now promoting African 'ownership' of the policies and projects which foreign aid supports. The authors tease out the multiple meanings of the term 'ownership', demonstrating why it became popular when it did, but also the limits to this discourse of ownership observed in aid practices. The authors set out to defend a particular vision of ownership-one that involves African governments taking back control of their development policies and priorities. Based largely on interviews with the people who do the negotiating on both sides of the aid relationship, the country case studies put the rhetoric of the new aid system to a more practical test. The authors ask how donors seek to achieve their policy objectives without being seen to push too hard, what preconditions they place on transferring authority to African governments, and what effect the constant discussions over development policy have on state institutions, democracy and political culture in recipient countries. It investigates the strategies that African states have adopted to advance their objectives in aid negotiations and how successful their efforts have been. Comparing the country experiences, it points out the conditions accounting for the varying success of eight African countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. It concludes by asking whether the conditions African countries face in aid negotiations are changing. Contributors to this volume - Isaline Bergamaschi is a doctoral candidate in Politics and International Relations at Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris (Sciences-Po). Rachel Hayman is an ESRC post-doctoral fellow at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh. Alastair Fraser is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Xavier Furtado is with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Joe Hanlon is a Senior Lecturer in Development Policy and Practice at the Open University, UK. Graham Harrison is Reader in Politics and Director of the Political Economy Research Centre at the University of Sheffield, UK. Duncan Holtom is a Senior Researcher at the People and Work Unit, a voluntary sector organization based in the UK. Emily Jones is Trade Policy Adviser for Oxfam GB where she leads advocacy work on regional and bilateral trade agreements. Gervase Maipose is an Associate Professor and currently Head of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana. Sarah Mulley is coordinator of the UK Aid Network, a coalition of NGOs advocating for more and better aid. Paolo de Renzio is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, and a Research Associate of the Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure at the Overseas Development Institute. James Smith is retired following a 24-year career at the World Bank dealing with aid and poverty issues, where his last position was Lead Economist for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management in Africa. Lindsay Whitfield was a Research Fellow at the Global Economic Governance Programme (2005-2008), and is currently a Research Fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Suggested Citation

  • Whitfield, Lindsay (ed.), 2008. "The Politics of Aid: African Strategies for Dealing with Donors," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199560172.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199560172

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    Cited by:

    1. Monica Beuran & Gaël Raballand & Julio Revilla, 2011. "Improving Aid Effectiveness in Aid-Dependent Countries: Lessons from Zambia," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 11040, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    2. Monica Beuran & Gaël Raballand & Julio Revilla, 2011. "Improving aid effectiveness in aid-dependent countries : lessons from Zambia," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00611901, HAL.

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