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Aid to Africa was in decline even before the pandemic


The OECD DAC, which tracks official development assistance (ODA) spending, has released the latest global aid figures. Due to a lag in reporting and analysis, these only cover through the end of 2019, but they paint a grim picture for what development assistance looked like in the lead up to the global pandemic.

While overall global aid totalled US$151.7 billion, aid fell far short of commitments, and what’s more, development assistance to Africa and the most vulnerable countries declined.

The top lines

  • Aid totaled US$151.7 billion in 2019, a 0.6% increase from 2018 in real terms, but US$205 billion less than needed to reach the commitment of 0.7% of donor’s national income (GNI).
  • Only five donors achieved the 0.7% ODA/GNI target in 2019: Luxembourg (1.03%), Norway (1.03%), Sweden (0.96%), Denmark (0.72%) and the UK (0.70%).
  • Aid to Africa from DAC donors decreased for the second year in a row (-1.4% compared to 2018). In 2019, it totaled US$49.1 billion, or 34.4% of total net ODA. And ODA to sub-Saharan Africa totaled US$41.2 billion, or 3% less than in 2018, in real terms. This amounts to 28.9% of DAC countries’ total net ODA.
  • Aid to the least developed countries (LDCs) dropped by US$1.9 billion (-4%), in real terms, to $43.3 billion. Many of the main donors, including France (-10.5%), Canada (-9.2%), the EU (-9.1%), the UK (-7.8%), and Germany (-7%) registered significant drops in their aid to LDCs.
  • On the upside, aid to gender equality increased by nearly 8% in real terms, totaling US$39.5 billion in 2019.

View and explore the full data in ONE’s Tableau Dashboard.

The bigger picture

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw rising debt levels across Africa as countries were forced to borrow more to keep pace with financing needs. Countries were already in a precarious position — 30 countries spend more on debt repayments than they do on healthcare.

Since COVID-19 has hit, Africa has suffered greatly from the economic aftershocks, going into its first recession in 25 years, and pushing millions of people into extreme poverty, erasing decades of progress. While the US and other G7 economies are estimated to recover fairly quickly, thanks in large part to a fast and massive vaccine rollout, emerging economies could take years to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

COVID-19 has been a wake up call for the world, that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. Countries must realise that investments in global development and public goods are not charity, but are investments in global security and shared prosperity.

To explore COVID-19’s impacts on Africa further, visit our Aftershocks tracker.

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