Development aid to South Africa
South Africa's importance for promoting economic growth and poverty reduction in Southern Africa should be the main focus in future development assistance concludes a recent review of Norwegian development assistance to South Africa. The review, which S&T helped conduct, was led by Elling TjØnneland of the Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) and Pundy Pillay, the former deputy director-general in the President's office. In this article, a summary of a CMI Policy Brief written by Elling, we highlight the major findings of the review. The report itself – From Aid to Partnership – A Joint Review of Norwegian South African Development Co-operation 1995-2001 – is available from www.cmi.no/public/2003/R2003-01.htm .
In 2000, South Africa's National Treasury carried out a major evaluation
of the aid inflow in the 1994-1999 period. It concluded that aid had played
a significant role in many areas. It assisted in transformation of institutions,
in developing new policies, in implementation and delivery of services
and in exposing South Africa to lessons and experiences from other countries.
This may have been achieved also without development aid, but then probably
at a much slower speed. In consolidating new and fragile democracies,
speed and swift action are important and sometimes crucial. However, the
evaluation also noted that the impact of foreign aid was highly uneven.
The aid was not sufficiently focused and the South African management
was not optimal. In particular, it was found that the Treasury had limited
capacity to facilitate donor co-ordination. The CMI review of Norwegian
aid reached similar conclusions with significant deviations.
The CMI review found that Norwegian development assistance to South
Africa has been well aligned with the policy priorities of this country.
Moreover, the assistance has been successful in facilitating and building
relations and co-operation between a range of institutions in Norway and
South Africa. For Norway, this is particularly evident and comprehensive
in higher education and research, and also in some state departments and
civil society organisations. Institutional co-operation has strengthened
political co-operation between the two countries in a number of areas.
However, the commercial interaction between the two countries has been
limited, and the CMI review concludes that the potential for such interaction
may not have been fully exploited.
Policies for a new democracy
The greatest impact of the Norwegian development assistance has been
on government processes such as developing new policies and planning institutional
reforms. The contributions with the best results have been in support
to fisheries and energy policy. These are also areas where Norway has
been in a position to offer highly competent technical assistance and
where Norway's own experience has been relevant. In fisheries the Norwegian
support focused on the policies and legislative framework addressing the
management of marine resources and the redistribution of fishing quotas.
Energy policy research and capacity building liberalised and re-regulated
the energy market.
Insufficient support to poverty reduction
The impact of the support to policy implementation and capacity building
has not been optimal. The Norwegian support has been characterised by
insufficient co-ordination and lack of overall vision. Frequently capacity
building was seen as just training and insufficient attention was paid
to the need to integrate capacity building into the plans of organisations
and institutions. Whilst support to the local government sector has been
relevant and effective this was not in the case in the direct support
given to poverty reduction and job creation initiatives. In fact Norway
withdrew its support and/or shifted its priorities when implementation
problems emerged on the South African side.
Support to civil society
Civil society has been a major recipient of Norwegian development aid.
These funds have been channelled both through Norwegian NGOs and directly
to civil society. In contrast to many other foreign donors, the Norwegian
funding has remained focused on smaller NGOs and community-based organisations.
Norway has paid limited attention to the use of South African NGOs in
order to improve implementation and service delivery in government programmes,
a shift that might have been more effective. There is however, limited
knowledge of the impact and the role of the Norwegian and other foreign
support to civil society institutions.
Prioritise the region
Norway has strongly emphasised the regional dimension in its support
to South Africa. Since 1999 Norway has attempted to build regional components
into all programmes. This has also been welcomed and supported by the
South African government. However, the achievements so far have been limited.
In most cases, the regional programmes are often limited to funds for
networking and participation in regional workshops. Nevertheless, the
review did find that many of these regional initiatives hold promise.
The main recommendation of the review revolves around the regional component.
South Africa. The Review concludes that support to regional development
efforts should be the key priority in the co-operation between Norway
and South Africa, especially as South Africa plays such an important role
in the region and because South Africa's leaders have the political will
and commitment to facilitate growth and development in Southern Africa.
However, the review does caution that regional development should only
be supported if:
- it is not confined only to supporting South African led activities;
- there is a strong emphasis on capacity building and institutional
- it is aligned with the policies and guidelines developed by regional
organisations and that the support assists with the further development
of these policies; and
- it prioritised security, stability and good governance, especially
in relation to SADC and the African Union/ NEPAD.