Germany’s Aid to Africa Falls

Germany’s aid to Africa has declined although the country itself recorded a stable growth in 2012 compared to much of Europe that was hit by the economic crisis.

A woman cooks fish using an improved cookstove in Kenya. Copyright: Jörn Breiholz

Environment-friendly cooking stoves are some of the development-aid supported projects in Kenya

The decline of aid by Germany on its gross domestic product (GDP) jeopardizes development successes in Africa, representatives of non governmental organizations have warned. The English philosopher Francis Bacon is credited for one of his famous quotes that says, “money is like manure, of little use unless it is spread.” In this context, international development assistance, as a fertilizer, has been growing but still on the deficit side.

Under the impact of the economic crisis, many Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries have drastically cut their development aid in the past two years: Spain by almost half, Italy by a good third and Greece by 17 percent.

Germany, however, has successfully performed well despite the crisis and reported continuous growth rates since 2010. Nevertheless, the share of official development payments, known as ODA (Official Development Assistance), declined to 0.37 percent for the first time last year since 2005.

“Germany as a donor country slipped from second to third place,” and is now behind the US and UK, says Tobias Kahler, Director of ONE in Germany. ONE was founded by U2 singer Bono and is committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases, especially in Africa. “With 0.37 per cent of its gross national income going to international aid, Germany lies somewhere in the middle of other donor countries,” said Kahler, “which does not correspond to the economic situation in Germany.”

Different interpretation

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development known by its German acronym (BMZ) has a different interpretation of the above figures.

Speaking to DW, parliamentary state secretary to the federal minister for economic cooperation and development, Gudrun Kopp said “Germany is one of the largest donors in development cooperation.”

Kopp refers to an increase in government spending on development aid to 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) between 2009 and 2012, “to the current 10.1 billion euros ($13.1 billion). This is a considerable improvement.”

According to Gudrun Kopp, “ONE has overlooked these figures.” There is a link between the declining share of development aid with the growing German economic performance. But Kahler finds this excuse not applicable. “This means someone who earns more would have to pay more taxes. Now I pay less because I earn more. The growing economic power must invest accordingly in development cooperation,” he said. Otherwise, the target of investing at least, 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to foreign aid by the year 2015, will clearly be missed.

Africa particularly affected

The decline of the German state development aid last year, hit Africa disproportionately. There was a deficit of over half a billion euro in development funds. This is 16 percent less compared to the year 2011. The cut was much felt in sub-Saharan Africa. “Among the top ten recipients of German development aid in Africa is Kenya. This means that a large part of the money does not go to the poorest but rather to emerging countries and to many G20 countries,” said Tobias Kahler.

According to BMZ’s statistics, the five emerging countries that are beneficiaries of the ODA programme include China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.

“Only sixteen African countries will able to halve extreme poverty by the year 2015,” says Kahler. Some of these countries are Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Africa is still a major focus of German development cooperation, says state secretary Gudrun Kopp. But the question on, “how much of sustainable development can we achieve with the taxpayers money” still remains there, Kopp says. “Focus should not lie directly on the total amount contributed, this is misleading. At some point we are in a special way also accountable to our citizens, ” Kopp added.

– DW