Waylaid Dialectic

August 30, 2010

Is aid welcome in Africa?

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 10:15 am
Tags: ,

Six Africans have written to the Daily Telegraph, suggesting that the UK curtail its aid to the continent. Excited, it would seem, by the scale of this data set, someone at AidWatch has linked to the letter. It’s not clear just who linked to it, or whether they agree with the writers’ sentiments or not, but Bill Easterly pops up in the comments thread in a way that suggests he thinks the letter is more right than wrong.

There is, of course, a somewhat better (albeit not perfect) data set for gauging Africans’ opinions on aid: this is the Afrobarometer survey.

Question 98D:

Q98D.- In your opinion, how much do each of the following do to help your country, or haven?t you heard enough to say?. [Read out options]. Other international donors and NGOs (apart from the United Nations).

* (Q98D) Q98d. How much help country: international donors/NGOs

Possible answers:
o -4 Not asked
o -1 Missing
o 0 Do nothing, no help
o 1 Help a little bit
o 2 Help somewhat
o 3 Help a lot
o 9 Don´t know

And the results from the most recent round of the survey?

In total, for the countries surveyed:

Missing 0.10%
Do nothing, no help 4.90%
Help a little bit 17.60%
Help somewhat 32.60%
Help a lot 44.90%

I’ve uploaded by country answers to the questions here [pdf]

To me at least, even taking account the survey limitations, the degree of support for NGOs and Donors suggests that the impact of aid on Africa is far from negative. Not perfect evidence – but certainly better than a letter written by six people.


  1. I actually think it would be more useful to see this on a country-by-country basis, as well as next to each country’s aid/gdp ratio :). It could be that those that believe the most in aid are the least experienced with it, or vice-versa.

    Comment by Matt — August 30, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  2. Thanks Matt – If I get time tomorrow I’ll try and plot Aid/GDP v beliefs on aid. I agree, it would be interesting to see if there’s any correlation. I’ll try and post results.

    Comment by terence — August 30, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  3. Perhaps not a coincidence that they chose to send their letter to the Daily “Torygraph” rather than a more centrist or left-leaning newspaper?

    Comment by Matt Davies — August 31, 2010 @ 6:59 am

  4. Yip – I reckon there’s a reasonable amount of ideology underpinning the whole affair.

    Comment by terence — August 31, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  5. I really like the discussion on Aidwatch. On the question of what links the letter authors – beyond ideology – they’re all linked to the International Policy Network here in London.

    Comment by melissa hall — August 31, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  6. Thanks Melissa,

    And here’s the Source Watch article on IPN:

    Reading that, and assuming the article’s correct, it would, I think, have been very surprising indeed, if IPN associates came out in favour of aid over trade…

    Comment by terence — August 31, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

  7. Great find Terence. It’s disappointing that nobody on the Aidwatch comment thread bothered to respond. For a bunch of people who claim to want ‘better’ aid, the AW crew sure do sound like the kind of people who really want ‘little or no’ aid.

    Comment by Jim — September 6, 2010 @ 3:45 am

  8. Thanks Jim –

    “For a bunch of people who claim to want ‘better’ aid, the AW crew sure do sound like the kind of people who really want ‘little or no’ aid.”

    – I agree, despite their protestations otherwise, it’s really rather hard to avoid drawing this conclusion from the evidence at hand at the site.

    Comment by terence — September 6, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  9. It would be nice if the survey question had a “hurt” option though…

    Comment by Lee — September 6, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  10. Possibly, but it’s unlikely to change the fact that a significant majority of people believe it helps.

    FWIW – these sorts of surveys aren’t perfect tools. They’re just a lot better than the data set of 6 which appeared to be of such importance over at Aidwatch.

    Comment by terence — September 7, 2010 @ 8:04 am

  11. […] This is misleading. It’s true that some well off Africans, working for conservative think tanks and investment banks claim to believe that aid harms Africa, but when the average African is surveyed in Afrobarometer surveys the vast majority of them express the belief that aid helps rather than hinders in Africa. […]

    Pingback by Helen Hughes — much more harm than good « Waylaid Dialectic — April 3, 2011 @ 11:49 am

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