Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa

Development without Democracy

Edited by Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens


A revealing insight into the motives and consequences of the increasing amounts of development aid given by the West to authoritarian governments in Africa.

In 2013 almost half of Africa's top aid recipients were ruled by authoritarian regimes. While the West may claim to promote democracy and human rights, in practice major bilateral and international donors, such as USAID, DFID, the World Bank and the European Commission, have seen their aid policies become ever more entangled with the survival of their authoritarian protégés. Local citizens thus find themselves at the receiving end of a compromise between aid agencies and government elites, in which development policies are shaped in the interests of maintaining the status quo.

Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa sheds light on the political intricacies and moral dilemmas raised by the relationship between foreign aid and autocratic rule in Africa. Through contributions by leading experts exploring the revival of authoritarian development politics in Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, Mozambique and Angola, the book exposes shifting donor interests and rhetoric as well as the impact of foreign aid on military assistance, rural development, electoral processes and domestic politics. In the process, it raises an urgent and too often neglected question: to what extent are foreign aid programmes actually perpetuating authoritarian rule?

Author Bio

Tobias Hagmann is associate professor of international development at Roskilde University, a research associate with the Political Geography Chair at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and a fellow with the Rift Valley Institute in Nairobi and London.

Filip Reyntjens is professor of African law and politics at the Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp. He is a full member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences and a board member of several scientific organizations.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Aid and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa after 1990 - Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens
  • 1. Discourses of Democracy, Practices of Autocracy: Shifting Meanings of Democracy in the Aid-Authoritarianism Nexus - Rita Abrahamsen
  • 2. Aid to Rwanda: Unstoppable Rock, Immovable Post - Zoë Marriage
  • 3. Authoritarianism and the Securitization of Development in Uganda - David M. Anderson and Jonathan Fisher
  • 4. Ethiopia and International Aid: Development Between High Modernism and Exceptional Measures - Emanuele Fantini and Luca Puddu
  • 5. Donors and the Making of 'Credible' Elections in Cameroon - Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle
  • 6. Foreign Aid and Political Settlements: Contrasting the Mozambican and Angolan Cases - Helena Pérez Niño and Philippe Le Billon
  • Conclusion: Democracy Fatigue and the Ghost of Modernization Theory - Nicolas van de Walle


‘A well-organized, fascinating collection.’
Foreign Affairs

'Provides welcome relief from an academic literature which often treats official development assistance (ODA) in apolitical terms.'
Africa at LSE

'[A] timely collection of essays'.
Medicine, Conflict and Survival

'The collection is helpful in drawing attention to some general truths concerning the aid relationship; truths that bear restating for each new generation of scholars, policymakers and practitioners.'
African Affairs

'A valuable addition to the literature on political evolution in Africa and the relationship to aid and donor-based development.'
The Conversation

‘A wake-up call to the international democratic community. At a time when distrusting democracy has become fashionable again, this book cogently warns against the pitfalls of placing faith in dictatorship.’
Andreas Schedler, author of The Politics of Uncertainty

'An excellent contribution that will be of great use to students and researchers interested in democracy and foreign aid in sub-Saharan Africa ... will undoubtedly become a standard book for courses on development assistance and on African politics.'
Devon Curtis, University of Cambridge

‘A thought-provoking collection on an important phenomenon of African and global politics. Its essays elegantly reveal the intersections between ideologies of progress, power politics, technocracy, and sovereignty.’
Peter Uvin, Claremont McKenna College

‘Easily one of the most important books on development published in recent years. This is a must-read for all those concerned with where the globe's bankrupt political elites are taking us.’
Mark Duffield, University of Bristol (Emeritus)


Publication Date: 15 March 2016
192 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783606283
Hardback: 9781783606290
eBook ePub: 9781783606313
eBook PDF: 9781783606306
eBook Kindle: 9781783606320

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