The majority of assistance from these states is intraregional, and development assistance directed to sub-Saharan Africa is particularly focused on countries with large Muslim populations. In 2008, the three Arab countries gave 85% of their total development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa to just four countries: 47% went to Sudan, 21% to Senegal, 11% to Mauritania and 5% to Djibouti. Development assistance from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE tends to focus on a small number of large-scale projects, often in the transport, energy and water sectors. From 1998 to 2007, these sectors were estimated to account for two-thirds of all Arab country commitments.
Trade between Arab and African states is expanding significantly, as is the practice of Arab countries purchasing large tracts of African farmland. In Sudan alone, the UAE has acquired 750,000 hectares of land, and the Saudi investment company Foras plans to invest $1 billion in rice-growing countries such as Mali, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.
Kuwait’s main development assistance agency is the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), although some assistance is also channelled through the Ministry of Finance. KFAED is the largest Arab donor agency, accounting for 17% of the region’s total bilateral development assistance and 55% of its multilateral development assistance.
KFAED provides many more loans than it does grants, though its loans could all be counted towards its total ODA, as they meet the DAC’s grant element condition of 25%. KFAED’s total ODA in 2008–09 was $699 million. Since the agency's launch in 1961, sub-Saharan Africa has received 17.3% of all Kuwaiti loans – a total of 231 loans and $2.5 billion. Most of these loans have focused on transport projects ($1.4 billion), energy ($389 million) and water and sewage ($257 million).
Over the past few years, Kuwait has increased its total ODA as reported to the OECD DAC. According to the DAC, the country’s ODA increased from $160.9 million in 2004 to $283.2 million in 2008 (current prices).
The Saudi Development Fund (SDF) – launched in 1975 – is Saudi Arabia’s main development assistance agency, providing concessional loans for developing country projects, some budget support and debt relief and policy support from the Ministry of Finance. Between 1975 and 2008, the SDF provided loans for 430 development projects and economic programmes that totalled $7.7 billion. This assistance was delivered to 73 countries, 42 of which were in Africa. In 2008 alone, the SDF signed 16 loan agreements, for a total of $312 million, 46% (or $145 million) of which was directed towards sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of June 2007, Saudi Arabia had provided debt relief worth $162 million to 10 HIPC countries.
Saudi Arabia has also significantly increased its development assistance over the past few years. According to the DAC, the country’s development assistance increased from $1.7 billion in 2004 to $5.6 billion in 2008 (current prices), making it one of the largest non-DAC donors. Based on these figures, Saudi Arabia’s development assistance as a percentage of GNI grew from 0.5% in 2005 to 1.5% in 2008, a three-fold increase.
the United Arab Emirates
The principle aim of the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) is to provide economic assistance to developing countries through loans, grants and technical assistance for infrastructure development initiatives. Project focuses include agriculture, industry, transport, rural development, housing, water, electricity and tourism. Between 1961, when the ADFD was established, and 2008, the Fund provided development assistance to 52 developing countries worldwide, 25 of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Fund’s Annual Report, its total disbursement between 1961 and 2008 was $6.1 billion. African countries received a total of $318 million, comprising 4% of the ADFD’s total loans, 10% of ADFD grants, 15% of the country’s government loans and 1% of all government grants.
OECD estimates of the UAE’s total development assistance show that it provided $88 million (current prices) in 2008. This was a marked decrease from $429 million in 2007 and $181 million in 2004.
In April 2010, the UAE hosted a financial accountability workshop for donor agencies. Supported by Islamic Relief UK and the British Charity Commission, this workshop was an important step towards improving the transparency and effectiveness of the UAE’s development assistance.