The colour of Addis Abeba is increasingly mixed. Dressing to impress
has become the trend, while peculiarity in fashion
uplifts status. Despite the supremacy of
conservative social values, freedom and individual
expression are increasing. Diversity became the apex
Amid the changing metropolitan dynamics, however, exceptionality did
not lose its role. Instead, it is now indicative of
confidence and success.
No different is the temperament for visibility amongst international
aid agencies, claims a new study. The study aimed at
evaluating the effective implementation of the Paris
Declaration, agreed upon by the international donor
agencies in 2005, has brought the incongruence of
aid provision to light. Unlike the beauty of
diversity in Addis Abeba, variations in approaches
impose huge costs for aid recipients, the study
Three important aspects of the international aid system were evaluated;
the input-output relationship, managing for results
and harmonisation. Aid agencies and countries
including African Development Bank (AfDB),
Department for International Development (DFID),
Japan and the US were included in the review.
Individual recipient countries were also involved.
The results of the study were shocking for development experts around
the world. It revealed that the system is marred
with inefficiency, disorganisation and lack of
strategic vision. Donors are competing for
visibility and distinctness rather than
collaboration. Systemic and institutional incapacity
is rampant. No coherence exists.
Although the debate on the relevance and effectiveness of aid is
decades old, no such detailed study had been
conducted to underpin either of the propositions.
For proponents of no aid, the results are
affirmations of systemic failure. It shows that aid
does not result in economic growth. Inherent
competitiveness amongst donors restrains
cooperation, limiting the role of aid in
development. Weak and ambiguous planning disables
inter-institutional alignment, promoting dependency,
the argument goes.
On the other hand, advocates of effective aid claim that the results do
not signify the irrelevance of aid. Rather, it shows
the weak edges of global aid provision.
Institutional problems breed incompetence. It also
raises ineffectiveness. So far as the motives of aid
providers vary, they argue, such inaptness is not
surprising. It is the same song, although the
dancers might change, they argue.
In contrast to the beauty of peculiarity in Addis Abeba, the
idiosyncrasy of the aid industry hinders the
development efforts of poor countries. Yet, the
state of ineffectiveness varies amongst donors.
The Official Development Assistance (ODA) of Japan, for example, is
mentioned to have a weak or ambiguous linkage with
the bigger picture of development assistance, as
stated in the declaration. The Japanese provide
little attention for aid harmonisation and
accountability, according to the findings. Japanís
aid also lacks linkage with other policies, such as
their trade policy. Lacking strong institutional
capacity, the Japanese ODA runs after visibility
rather than impact. Thus, no strong incentive exists
Shockingly, ODA from US is found to have no organised conceptual and
organisational architecture. Fragmentation of
institutional responsibilities promoted
inconsistency. Inherent conflict exists between the
three core principles of USAID; diplomacy, defence
and development. Competition between authorities
continues to be a major snag. After all, the US is
another dancer on the floor of aid ineffectiveness,
according to the research.
Placed at the other end of the spectrum, the UKís aid is more
harmonised to global development targets than any
other bilateral aid provider. In view of
predictability and harmonisation, the UK tops the
chart. Although lagging behind in terms of
transparency, aid agencies perform better in
institutional flexibility indicators.
As Ethiopiaís economy takes off, the irony of development assistance is
vivid. Whereas the growing infrastructure base
signifies the face of effectiveness, rampant
unemployment and poverty tells the story of
inefficiency. Indisputably, the multiple donors that
support the cityís development effort would share
The new study did not include the review of Ethiopiaís aid
effectiveness. The reality on the ground, however,
shows that the situation is complicated. Although
the debate on aid prevails in the local political
discourse, it is heavily influenced by anecdotal
evidence. Even in the situation of the severe
drought crisis, the aid debate remains all about
numbers rather than effectiveness.
With the turning face of the government towards development, a change
in strategic direction of most aid agencies was
evident. Nonetheless, it did not change the
orientation of resource allocation. Most aid
agencies spend the lionís share of their budget on
foreign consultants and recurrent expenditures.
Sustainability has been pushed aside.
Harmonisation of development assistance is far off in Ethiopia. Most
donors compete for visibility rather than focus
impact. Inadequate attention is provided for
monitoring expenditures. Projects are selected on
the basis of financial viability rather than
developmental impact. The hoopla is all about
infrastructure, while soft skill development and
economic empowerment receive lip service.
Incongruity in personal outlook might be taken as fashion, as is
evident in Addis Abeba. The same level of inaptness
would, however, be taken as inefficiency in the case
of policy making. Global aid provision is one such
example, while Addis Abeba can serve as a pictogram.