Campaigner: Don’t cut aid when we’re on the cusp of achieving MDGs


A new report shows that sub-Saharan Africa suffered disproportionately from cuts to aid spending by EU member states. This could endanger the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals at a critical time, says Eloise Todd.

Eloise Todd is the Brussels director of ONE, a poverty-fighting organisation co-founded by Bono. She was interviewed by EURACTIV Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

Your organisation released a report showing alarming figures for the decline of development aid for sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, it reveals that 11 of 15 EU countries studied made double-digit percentage cuts to aid to sub-Saharan Africa between 2011 and 2012. Are you sure about your figures?

Our study is based on the DAC figures [the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Cooperation Directorate] that came out in April, which were preliminary. We expect, and we hope, that when the final DAC figures will come out in December, donors will have rectified some of the problems.

But we’re absolutely sure as to what the preliminary figures show: 14 out of 15 EU countries have reduced their aid to sub-Saharan Africa and 11 have made double-digit percentage cuts.  

One important thing to bear in mind is that we calculate how much donors would have given to sub-Saharan Africa via their contributions to different multilateral institutions. That means the figures look a little different to the DAC figures that came out in April.

Apparently only Luxembourg has slightly increased its aid. It’s not a surprise if crisis-hit Spain has decreased its aid, though a reduction by 60% is a dramatic figure. But even a country in a good situation such as the Netherlands has reduced its aid by almost 20%. France has cut by 28%…

When we talk to donors about those figures, in some cases they are also surprised. Many say that it’s a DAC accounting issue and that later in the year the figures will go up. But the truth of the matter is that the general trend for sub-Saharan African funding is that we haven’t seen the scale-up we need in that region in order to combat poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. And as the introduction of the report shows, there has been amazing progress in some sub-Saharan African countries. So at such a critical point in time, with less than 1,000 days to reach the MDGs, it seems absolutely unbelievable that donors should scale back their effort.

We are very worried about this apparent trend and we urge member states to take a look at it, to look at their accounting, and to scale up efforts dramatically for sub-Saharan Africa.

Indeed, a number of sub-Saharan countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, are considered as “aid champions” and are becoming less dependent on foreign assistance. Do you think the European Commission is right in calling for re-directing aid towards the countries in the worst situation?

I think that what the European Commission has done, for example within the Development Cooperation Instrument, is to concentrate its efforts on the MDGs and on poorer countries, which we welcome. But the Commission is also active in a wide range of countries; the European Development Fund covers all of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

What could be the consequences of the massive reduction of aid for sub-Saharan Africa is concerned? Maybe increased migration towards Europe?

We have come a long way in so many sub-Saharan countries, and not to sustain this effort now, when we are on the cusp of trying to achieve the MDGs, would be a waste.

Investing in development is not only about charity, or moral reasons, that’s one element of it, but it’s also about our own economic interest. Development in sub-Saharan Africa is good for us, because it helps build markets and productivity. But most importantly, it saves lives.

I attended recently a conference on sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on French-speaking countries. Speakers said that there was enough money in those countries, a lot having been brought by migrants. But what was lacking, they said, were the instruments to transform it into productive investment. Various examples were provided of industrious Africans who have difficulty to pass from their invention or prototype to industrial production, due to the lack of “enterprise incubators”. What is your reaction on that?

Absolutely. Development aid is not only about health and education interventions, although these are absolutely paramount. It’s also about the economic drivers, agriculture for example. Agricultural investments are very important. They are amongst the most effective investments in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s absolutely imperative that development aid is targeted in the most catalytic way and that businesses have support, and money, and a whole range of tools.

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