Emerging donors in an ever-changing development’s game

Urwah Saari

International Development Analyst

In the foreign aid seminar at the International Development Department this week, Professor Amis talked about emerging donors in international development assistance. The emergence of new donors including China, the Arab’s countries and the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) among others in recent years has changed in what I defined as ‘development’s assistance game’, which was long dominated by the established Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In an article, Ngaire Woods states that it is approximately USD 100 Billions of aids were spent by these emerging new donors, which he cites Moises Naim opined that huge amount of money spent as generous but toxic. This claim might be too generalised that these emerging donors are much the same as those established donors. What matters is how much local interests can be realised by that foreign aid.

Woods claims that emerging donor especially China provides unconditional support of rogue states such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, however, established donor such as the United States was involved in providing aid to Afghan insurgent groups during Soviet’s invasion at the end of 1970. During the Cold War, the US was aware that Soviet’s thrive to world’s political dominance should Afghanistan fall into their control, therefore at all cost, providing financial aid to insurgent groups was the US best indirect intervention to hold Soviet progression and perceived as the simplest way to pursue political agenda. Foreign aid was used to disguise the political intervention mechanism by the US through media propaganda including publication, film production and many others.

China in this respect was involved in Tanzania-Zambia Tazara Railway project in the late 70s as part of solidarity to support Zambia to eliminate economic dependence on Rhodesia and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white-minority governments. The project was recognised as the single largest foreign aid by China and perceived as a symbolism of Chinese support for new African sovereign and independent country. This explanation can be found in China’s Government Aid White Paper 2011.

There is some opinion that perceives foreign aid as indirect new imperialism, to a certain extent able to put the sovereignty of receiving state into question. While some donor countries seem to be “sincere” through their unconditional aids, nevertheless we often see that these donors had hidden interests. While it seems unfair to judge the motives of the new donors, no one could able to reject that in the world full of competition, every investment should have returned. The UK finally ending its bilateral aid to India in 2015, after few years of debate over whether India should continue to receive UK’s aid whilst India Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has leapt to 7% compared to the UK itself, especially after a French company won a $15 billion Rafale military deal, snubbed UK’s offer. If the UK expects its aid to India as an investment for bilateral economic interest, definitely India is no longer need it.

With about 300 million people in India live under the poverty line. Critics, therefore, demand that aid should continue and be channelled directly to the poor people, via established civil group and NGO. Department for International Development (DfID) should focus on strengthening the capacity of the civil group and NGO and continue to provide support directly to the targeted community. The effect of ending British aid may not bee seen immediately, but they are certain it will make a difference in the long term.

Reference :

Ngaire Woods.(2008). “Whose aid? Whose influence? China, emerging donors and the silent revolution in development assistance”. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2346.2008.00765.x

BBC.(2015).”UK ending aid to India: Where does the money go?” Link : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-34398449

BBC.(2018).”Rafale deal: Why French jets are at the centre of an Indian political storm”.Link : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-45636806

China Government.(2011).”China Foreign Aid White Paper 2011″. Link : http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2014/09/09/content_281474986284620.htm