Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are among the poorest in the world with the largest proportions of their populations in poverty and the lowest indicators of social progress. Many of these same countries are also among the most aid dependent in the world. And yet there is evidence that aid in large quantities is a double-edged sword; large amounts of aid over an extended period of time can make the strong stronger and the weak weaker. What, then, is to be done about aid dependence in Africa? In this essay, the culmination of a two-year collaborative study between ODC and the African Ecomic Research Consortium in Nairobi, the authors explore strategies for reducing aid and aid dependence in Sub-Saharan Africa. They begin by addressing four key questions related to a smooth transition from aid dependence in Africa: What is aid dependence? What are the causes and consequences of aid dependence? What has been the experience of particular countries with aid dependence? And, what are the most important elements that aid dors and recipients should consider in a strategy to reduce aid dependence? Dr. Lancaster proposes a value-free definition of aid dependence, explores in detail the elements and impact dependence (especially on recipient institutions and organizations), develops empirical materials on aid dependence in individual African countries, and finally, proposes specific strategies for reducing aid dependence. With the prospect of further decreases in aid to Africa and the rising concerns about the disappointing impact of large flows of aid to many African countries, it is timely and even urgent that the issue of reducing aid dependence be addressed. This essay makes an important contribution toward advancing this important task.
Carol Lancaster is Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, ODC Visiting Fellow, and former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Samuel Wangwe is Executive Director of the Economic and Social Research Foundation in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania