DFID’s aid priorities and Africa – a new report by the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group
The Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), a cross-party group of almost 90 MPs and Peers administered by the RAS, questions the Government’s selection of countries to receive aid, in a report entitled DFID’s Aid Priorities and Africa. The report analyses the Government’s Bilateral Aid Review (BAR) published in 2011, which led the Department for International Development (DFID) to reduce the number of countries it operates in from 43 in 2008/9 to 27 by 2016.
The cross party group concludes that the premise that DFID should operate more effectively in fewer countries is sensible, but the lack of objective criteria, the poor quality of some of the information used to select focus countries, and the lack of transparency of the process, mean the countries selected to receive aid are not the optimum choices. The report also discusses the implications of the BAR for how UK aid should be spent in Africa.
The Africa APPG developed three alternative versions of the Government’s Needs-Effectiveness Index, which was used in the BAR to rank countries according to their need for development assistance, and its likely effectiveness. When the poverty rate (% living on less than $2 a day) is used instead of the poverty number (number living on less than $2 a day), a systematic bias towards larger countries in the Government’s index is removed, and the countries highlighted as priorities change considerably. In particular Burundi, which was excluded from UK bilateral aid following the BAR, would rank as the number one priority for UK aid under two of the three alternative indices.
Hugh Bayley MP, Chair of the Group, says, “Burundi is a small, extremely poor, fragile country recovering from decades of civil war. It is highly dependent on aid and its stability has serious consequences for neighbouring countries which receive hundreds of millions of pounds of British aid”.
The Africa APPG therefore recommends that DFID retains a bilateral aid programme in Burundi. This echoes the recommendations of a recent House of Commons International Development Select Committee report calling for DFID’s aid programme in Burundi to be re-instated, to which the Government will respond early in the new year.
The report also discusses the implications of the BAR for DFID’s work in Africa. In particular it highlights:
- The risk of prioritising easy wins over tasks that are more complex, longer term, or have a higher risk of failure, in order to meet targets and show value for money, and recommends that DFID must find a better balance between short and long term results, and continue to address complex issues such as the capacity of governments to manage budgets and human capital development.
- The importance of ensuring accountability to local communities and their elected representatives in national Parliaments, as well as to donors.
- In cases where a DFID country programme fails to achieve its expected outcomes, the importance of assessing the reasons why it did not deliver, considering how to prevent this being repeated and seeking alternative mechanisms to deliver aid to the country’s population.
The UK spent £4254 million on bilateral assistance in 2010/11, but this figure is set to increase as the UK meets its commitment of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 2013/14.
Hugh Bayley MP, Chair of the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group, says:
“The basic premise of the Bilateral Aid Review, that reducing the number of British bilateral programmes will reduce administrative overheads and improve aid effectiveness, is reasonable. The results, such as the closure of DFID offices in countries where the UK has little comparative advantage, like Niger, or in countries which no longer have a significant development needs, such as Kosovo and Vietnam, are generally sensible. However we have reservations about how the Review was carried out, which have implications for some of the decisions made.
The review favoured countries with large populations. There is no evidence to suggest that aid will be more effective in such countries and no convincing moral argument for doing more to aid poor people in large countries than poor people in small countries. In particular we disagree with the decision to close DFID’s bilateral programme in Burundi. If the bias towards large countries is removed from DFID’s Needs-Effectiveness Index, Burundi ranks as the most needy country. Had fairer criteria been used in the Government’s review, DFID’s programme in Burundi would not have been selected for closure.”