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Fraser, Alastair
Whitfield, Lindsay
Year of Publication: 
Series/Report no.: 
GEG Working Paper 2008/42
Academic studies of aid to Africa have typically asked how "we" in the West can get "them" in Africa to adopt economic and political systems that look like our own. Suspicion of African politics has led to the assumption that governments seeking to resist the developmental models promoted by generous foreign donors are doing so for nefarious reasons. As a result, the negotiating strategies that African states have adopted to secure their own policies have been largely neglected. In contrast, this article starts with a positive view of African states' sovereign rights. It asks how they can use aid to pursue their own policy preferences, resisting donor priorities while still taking the money. It reports on primary research from eight countries - Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia, investigating the strategies African states have adopted to identify and advance their objectives, the sources of leverage they have been able to bring to bear in negotiations, and the differing degrees of control that they have been able to exercise over the policies agreed in negotiations and those implemented after agreements have been signed. Based largely on interviews with politicians and civil servants, the cases reveal the implicit and explicit negotiating strategies African negotiators adopt. The cases were researched in the context of the Negotiating Aid project at the Global Economic Governance Programme, University of Oxford. Full findings are published in an edited collection (Whitfield forthcoming 2008). The cases focus on Africa because the continent houses more countries that rely on foreign assistance for a significant share of their central government income than any other continent. The task of securing control over the implemented outcomes of negotiations is most challenging in these aid dependent countries. The selection of countries captures variation in the degrees of control achieved, the levels of financial dependence and the historical and political context for aid relations. Botswana provides for contrast with the currently aid dependent countries as it successfully managed aid in the 1960s and 1970s and exited from dependence by the 1980s. This article first explains the rationale for conceptualizing contemporary donor - recipient relations as a negotiation. It challenges the fashionable construction of aid as a partnership as well as the idea that recipients increasingly "own" their programmes, suggesting that these notions tend to obfuscate power relations. It distinguishes competing definitions of ownership as control over implemented policies and ownership as commitment to a pre-determined policy set, and seeks to identify a methodology for assessing degrees of success in winning control. The second part of the article presents findings from the country cases and considers the factors that account for the negotiating strategies attempted by each Government, and the varying degrees of control they achieved. It concludes that while Botswana has had the greatest success, Ethiopia and Rwanda have also maintained significant control over the implemented policy agenda. The research finds little to suggest that either Tanzania, often cited as a case of a recipient achieving "ownership" that others might emulate, or any of the four other countries have substantially challenged the donor-dominance that has defined their aid relations over the last decade. Finally, the article highlights some emerging trends, such as debt relief, economic growth and China's increasing role on the continent, and considers their potential impacts on African governments' negotiating strength and the future of Western aid policies.
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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