Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the case for aid and the changes currently taking place in terms of how we provide aid, the way it is monitored and the level of participation that poorer nations have in their own futures’.
With the football world cup starting on Friday, all eyes are on South Africa as the first African nation to host the event. It leads many to ask whether Africa has perhaps reached a turning point in the story of their own development.
In light of this, the Financial Times recently launched a new series examining development aid on the continent and the relative progress that has been made by African countries over the last 30 years. Investigations like this one represent a distinct change in attitudes of the global north in relation to African nations and their economic and social capacity to help themselves.
As part of this series there is a comprehensive interactive graphic, Developing Aid in Africa, which allows you to look at different aspects of aid, country by country and year by year. For those of you that like to see the evidence behind some of these studies in a clear format, this graphic is helpful.
Studies like these contribute to establishing evidence about what effective aid looks like, as well as enabling us to learn from our past actions in terms of the aid we have provided.
Another development this week in the aid arena came in the form of Oxfam’s report, 21st Century Aid, which is an investigation into the effectiveness of aid. It addresses criticisms lodged against aid head on and in doing so acknowledges that many of them valid but also that they can be answered.
To mark the release of this report Oxfam hosted a debate with the new secretary of state for International Development, Minister Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell outlined the coalition’s commitment to increase development aid and highlighted their move to a more evidence based approach to aid. He called for a system which allowed all interested parties to see how and where aid money is spent stating, “International development aid is the best return you’ll find on investment anywhere in the government.”
The lasting message of the report is that while it is easy to recognise that not all aid works, this does not constitute an argument for aid to be reduced or phased out altogether. Instead, it calls for an improvement of the quality of aid we provide, the way that we deliver it, and the way in which it is monitored.
The Oxfam report provides a good summary of what we have learnt about how to make aid good but it still needs to do more to identify how we can make aid even better. We need to develop a much stronger evidence base for what really works and what doesn’t, so that we can use this to inform our future practices. While the report begins to do this, it does not go far enough in terms of the evidence it provides, or the suggestions it makes about how to really focus on this in the future. So, if you're as interested in making aid work as we are, we'd suggest you check out William Easterley’s blog, AidWatch - a rare site that is searching out what's really working, how, and what that means for the rest of us.