Democratic Trajectories in Africa

Unravelling the Impact of Foreign Aid

Despite impressive economic growth rates over the last decade, foreign aid still plays a significant role in Africa's political economies.

This book asks when, why, and how foreign aid has facilitated, or hindered, democratization in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead of looking at foreign aid as a monolithic resource, the book examines the disparate impacts of aid specifically intended for development outcomes and aid explicitly aimed at democracy promotion. Careful attention is also given to examining the role of various aid modalities, including general budget support, and the influence of non-traditional donors. In doing so, the authors use a combination of cross-country quantitative analyses and in-depth case studies of Benin, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia based on recent interviews with donors, government officials, and civil society organizations.

Unlike other work on aid and democracy, the book carefully considers how foreign aid affects various elements of the democratization process, including transitions to multiparty systems and democratic consolidation. In terms of the latter, the authors analyse what role different types of aid play in avoiding a breakdown of multiparty democracy or an erosion of civil liberties, reinforcing parliaments and judiciaries, promoting free and fair elections and a vibrant civil society, and encouraging competitive party systems.

Overall, the authors' findings suggest that the best means for enhancing the effectiveness of aid for development outcomes is not always the most optimal way of promoting democratic consolidation, and the book provides policy recommendations to try and reconcile these trade-offs.


'Combining scholarly rigor with incisive policy analysis, the editors and their top-notch group of contributors skillfully dissect the effects of political and developmental aid on democratization in Africa. The examination of non-Western aid alongside Western aid and the rich country case studies are additional pluses. An invaluable, long overdue study, decisively filling a major gap in the literature both on African politics and on international aid.' - Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace