Analyzing the motivations of U.S. development aid to Africa




Akram Malik, Izzah

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Research literature on foreign assistance suggests that the U.S. provides aid in order to serve both its own strategic interests as well as the development needs of aid recipient countries. Maintaining a focus on Africa, this report uses newly available data for official development assistance and attempts to verify whether prevailing hypotheses regarding the motivations behind U.S. aid giving still hold true. Specifically, the report analyzes whether aid giving patterns align with 1) the development needs of recipient countries as understood through the lens of internationally established priorities, or 2) with good political and economic policies within recipient countries vis-à-vis democratic institutions and open markets, or 3) with U.S. national strategic interests (be they political, military, or economic interests). A statistical analysis of U.S. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 53 countries in Africa over the period of 1970 to 2010 was carried out for this purpose. The results suggest that, when it comes to aid that is specifically addressed towards development projects in Africa, the strategic considerations and political priorities of the U.S. are just as important, if not more important, than the development needs or economic performance of recipient countries. Political allies and countries that democratize receive more aid from the U.S., ceteris paribus. In addition, it was found that more aid is given to countries with larger populations - a result that contradicts earlier literature on aid's motivations. The report is organized as follows. I begin in Section 1 by providing a general overview of U.S. foreign aid. In Section 2, I detail why Africa is a significant continent for such an analysis of U.S. aid, and outline some of the trends in aid to Africa. The third section summarizes some of the most important existing hypotheses about why the U.S. gives development aid. Section 4 describes the data and methodology used for this study and provides a discussion of the results obtained from the statistical analysis. Finally, in Section 6, I conclude by offering broader policy implications and sketching out avenues for future research.




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