Waylaid Dialectic

October 17, 2014

Aid and Civil War in South Africa

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 2:47 pm
Tags: ,

An interesting looking new working paper:

Did the Aid Boom Abate Civil Wars in Sub-Saharan Africa?

by Jean-Paul Azam and Véronique Thelen

The incidence of civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa since the turn of the century is about half what it was on average in the last quarter of the 20 th century. This paper shows that the aid boom triggered by 9/11 played a key role in achieving this result using panel data for 46 African countries over four decades. The estimated linear pr obability model predicts that doubling foreign aid would reduce the probability of a civil war occurring in a typical African country/year by nearly 5%, not far from the sa mple average. This was achieved despite the pressure in the opposite direction of the rise in the incidence of natural disasters across the continent, a piece of information that is ta ken into account by donors to determine their aid allocation.

It goes on my long to read list…

April 21, 2014

And in breaking news, someone’s asked Ugandans what they think of aid…

Filed under: Aid — terence @ 8:53 am
Tags: , ,

Angus Deaton knows, just knows!, aid is a net bad and should be stopped immediately. When asked for evidence by Owen Barder, he cited some selective examples, argued their couldn’t be any empirical answers to these questions anyhow, and that we should all trust his expertise. Could this be yet another example of an economist expert imposing his view upon the reality of the poor? Is this what William Easterly is banging on about?

I’ve pointed out before that Africans*, when somebody bothered to ask them, on average seem to think aid actually helps.



Adam Harris (NYU), Helen Milner (Princeton),
Michael Findley (UT-Austin), Daniel Nielson (BYU),
April 4, 2013
How do recipients view foreign aid? Systematic scholarship on this topic is very limited.
We provide a comparison of mass and elite support for aid from a randomized
field experiment and survey done in Uganda in 2012. We asked local village
leaders, provincial governors, national members of parliament, and more than 3,000
Ugandan citizens to demonstrate support for aid. For two aid projects, we randomly
assigned exposure to different project funders, including bilateral agencies, multilateral
organizations, and the domestic government. We invited subjects to demonstrate
their levels of support or opposition to these projects and donors by voicing
their support to others, signing a petition, and sending an SMS. For members of parliament
we asked them to sign letters of support to donors and the national president.
We examine the differences in attitudes and behavioral responses between
mass and elite recipients. We generally find that citizens strongly prefer foreign aid
over government programs, whereas elites support, albeit more weakly, government
programs over foreign aid in most outcomes. We interpret this as evidence
that citizens see aid as an escape from clientelism, but elites may perceive more
avenues for the capture of aid resources.

*and yup, I know Africa’s not a country. When I broke the AB results down by country support was high on average across almost all of those African countries surveyed.

December 29, 2011


Filed under: Governance — terence @ 7:16 am

On the Guardian’s blog Owen celebrates a new era in Africa. One of increased economic performance, decreased dependence on aid, decreased vulnerability to disasters (in most countries) and increased democracy.

He attributes this to:

The emergence of a new generation of leaders, the end of the continent’s debt crisis, business-friendly policies, new technologies, the spread of peace, and strong demand for natural resources…

Not knowing a lot about Africa I have the following questions.

1. How pro-poor has this growth actually been?
2. What’s the within continent variation?
3. What’s the actual evidence that business-friendly policies and new technologies have actually played a major role in the changes as opposed to rising resource consumption in China?
4. Are the good new leaders (who?) achieving change on their own or are they doing so because the institutions that they preside over are changing in a sustainable way.

To me questions 3 and 4 are the crucial ones. Because Africa has been here before, or at least parts of it have been: inspiring looking leaders and reasonable economic performance, only for things to end up imploding. And unless something fundamental has changed it is hard to see why this won’t happen again. Demand in China drops (for whatever reason), the economies of many African countries stagnate and, freed from the tailwind of economic improvement, older zero-sum problems of political economy re-emerge. And things start to look grim.

This mightn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t happen. But, for what it’s worth, I think it’s too soon to be making too much noise about a new dawn in Africa. Or, at least, it’s too soon to be doing this without good evidence of structural change.

[Update: Great review of the Radelet book that informed Owen’s column here by Edward Miguel.]

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.

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