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This article is taken from the April 2003 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Development aid to South Africa

Development aid to South Africa imageSouth 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.

Real partnership

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 development;
  • 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.
 

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