Africa Today Seminar Development and stagnation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Is there still a role for development cooperation?

Seminar date: 
26 March 2009
Speaker(s): Prof. Paul Hoebink

Prof. Paul Hoebink has a special chair in Development Cooperation at the Centre for International Development Issues Nijmegen at Radboud University. He has published widely on different aspects of international cooperation.

Discussant is Huub Hendrix who worked in Africa as SNV director and head of development cooperation in various countries. He was also a member of the Operations Review and Evaluations Department (IOB) of the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Despite receiving massive aid for many decades, most experts and almost all non-experts would agree that development in Sub-Saharan Africa is stagnating. Why? Many factors, including development assistance itself, are blamed for failing to bring progress to Africa. Voices to reduce or stop aid are getting louder and louder and donor strategies are claimed to be flawed, aimed at self-interest, inefficient and ineffective. Some politicians in the Netherlands have reacted in a similar fashion to the major Africa Policy Evaluation published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2008. These arguments from the North have even been joined by similar ones from the South. For example, Yash Tandon, Director of the South Centre in Geneva, released a booklet last year in which he pleaded for an end to aid dependence.

This lecture will analyse the strength of these arguments and consider how this 'crisis in aid' can be solved. Five factors will be identified that are impinging on the effectiveness of aid in Africa, each highlighting a particular problem area in development cooperation in the past. They are (i) the intentions of the donor agencies; (ii) the specific organization of aid agencies; (iii) the global economic situation which is naturally a point of poignant relevance today; (iv) the policies of national and regional governments; and (v) the social, political and cultural fit of programmes and projects to local settings. And finally I will outline the emerging new initiatives in development cooperation and the prospects they bring for greater effectiveness in development aid.