Unconditional aid and accountability: reassessing chinese unconditional engagement in africa

  • M Rebol


Many Western observers appraise Chinese aid to Africa very critically. Especially what is considered “unconditional assistance” has raised concerns of undermining western “conditional aid”. The current policy of international aid adopted by most western donors, including the IMF and the World Bank, is that aid is only given following conditions which have to be met by the host country (e.g. Good Governance, Democracy, Human Rights and anti-corruption measures). A country that provides aid in return for access to commodities rather than such conditions (e.g. China) is therefore considered as undermining these efforts. This paper criticizes this belief by arguing that the model of conditional aid does not work. The very nature of aid which is a one way flow of information is unaccountable. Despite conditions not having been met in the past, Western aid to Africa had been kept running, which renders conditionality ineffective. Only a flow of tangible goods in the opposite direction (e.g. commodities) as promoted in the Chinese “package deals” adds accountability to the process.

Keywords: China, Africa, aid conditionality,democracy, human rights, pro market reforms


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eISSN: 1596-8308