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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 15th April 2021

Challenges for aid in a pandemic

Blue Lines

Foreign aid from governments rose to an all-time high of €161.2 billion (US$192.1bn) in 2020, a 3.5% real terms increase, according to data published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Aid to Africa as a whole increased by 4.1%, boosted by extra money for North Africa. In the rest of Africa, foreign aid fell by 1% to €31 billion. That may be explained by the deep cuts to Britain's and Italy's aid budgets, which will not be reversed any time soon. On the ground, these cuts will hold back much-needed funds for health care after a year in which the demands of the pandemic have sidelined other social investment.

Against the cost of the pandemic, the latest OECD data reminds us how little, in relative terms, is going into aid budgets. OECD Secretary-General José Ángel Gurría said total aid amounts to about 1% of what countries have spent to stimulate their economies over the past year. It also warns us that calls by Britain's former prime minister Gordon Brown for the Group of 7 economies, when it meets in mid-June, to find the $30bn needed to finance a global vaccination scheme may fall on deaf ears.

Brown, who played a key role in the response to the 2007-08 global financial crisis, argues it is a matter of national self-interest not charity: a $30bn investment in universal vaccinations this year would add $500bn to global income by 2025.