Project: Foreign Aid and Democracy in Africa

UNU-WIDER / Dec 2012

Foreign aid can exhibit multiple impacts on a developing country’s political economy. This project aims to better understand how aid influences the democratic process, with a specific focus on Africa. In particular, the project asks the following question: When, why, and how has foreign aid facilitated, or hindered, democratic transitions and consolidation in Africa?

A voter in a poolling station in Zam Zam IDP Camp, El Fasher (North Darfur). © UNAMID/Albert Gonzalez Farran

In order to answer this question, this project will primarily involve a comparative case study analysis conducted in eight of Africa’s multi-party democracies. Within these countries, attention will be given to the 2000-2010 period and to democratic consolidation in three domains: 

  1. presence of genuinely competitive party systems, 
  2. respect for and legitimacy of political institutions, and
  3. accountability to citizens.

These case studies will be supported by three additional studies analyzing the existing literature on aid’s impact on Africa’s democratic transitions in the 1990s, the theoretical challenges of democratic consolidation in developing countries, and whether aid’s impact on accountability varies according to a country’s existing level of democracy.

The aim of the project is to delineate for policymakers, development practitioners, and researchers which features of aid and which characteristics of recipient countries determine the magnitude and direction of aid’s effectiveness on democratic transitions and consolidation. Understanding these factors hold important implications both for development economics and for the broader good governance agenda pursued by much of the donor community.

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10 May 2012
ReCom Results Meeting: Democracy & Fragility

8 June 2012
Seminar: Donors, Democracy and Development - Unraveling the Impact of Aid in Africa

17 May 2012
Seminar: Foreign Aid and Democracy in Africa

18 April 2012
Seminar: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Progress, Setbacks, and Possibilities for Democratization in Africa

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2012 WIDER Working Papers