Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gorilla, gorilla

I've often wondered if poor states get development help from states, international government organizations (IGOs) and civil society operators (CSOs) because they are poor and need help - like is supposed to happen. Or whether they get aid because they are a good place for global AIDministrators to have a paid holiday on charitable donations. With data from the fascinating directory of development organization I've decided to test whether my cynicism has any factual support.

As wikipedia tells us, development aid is different from humanitarian aid because it is designed to make the recipient country more wealthy over the long haul. The idea is to enable a poor state become rich enough to overcome humanitarian crises on its own and so not need any emergency assistance from foreign taxpayers or donating citizens ever again. Official development assistance (ODA) is usually provided in form of small grants and loans, while non-governmentals often help out with equipment, medical care, expertise in a field of knowledge, teaching and research. Since poor states have the greatest need for all of these things we should find the poorest states have more development organizations than their more wealthy neighbours - assuming there is no war going on.

Caveat: An assumption of mine is that many of the listed CSOs in the directory will be staffed by local administrators who are funded by international donors either directly or through their government which received the funds. I assume further that if these organizations don't have a foreign representative working with them, they or the government department which took the donor's money, will get a visit from a foreign aid coordinator representing the international donor once a year - who would check-in to ensure nobody was getting ripped off. The point I'm making is that if a bunch of money is donated somewhere that will usually entail one or more foreign official paying a visit to see where that money has gone. If international donors don't check up, just hand over the cash then there can be no paid-for holiday for someone. (My data is not so fine grained that I can filter-out the domestic CSOs and just look at international CSOs).

Note on methodology: I've chosen landlocked African states and split them into regional groups based on their closest neighbours and climatic zone. They're in groups because I want to compare like with like. For example, Chad will never have the Victoria Falls so its level of tourism will unlikely ever be comparable to Zambia unless there is a major war there. Its bio-inheritance, from savannah and charismatic megafauna like elephants and cheetahs in the south to Sahara desert in the north, is more similar to its neighbour Niger. African regions also have politics that make cross-regional comparison problematic. For example, the Mugabe Zimbabwe regime has lead to an increase in tourism to Zambia, and the history of genocide in Rwanda and Burundi might be expected to affect those nations.

Central Africa: Central African Republic, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi

With the poor and landlocked Central African states an obvious trend is the number of development organizations increase with population size. We can assume that a major reason why Uganda has over ten times more development organizations and nearly seven times more official development aid than the Central African Republic is because it has a nearly seven times larger population. Uganda has a greater number of poor than the Central African Republic and throw in a more complex development agenda (complicated by such issues as Uganda's south/north Bantu/Nihlotic split) you attract, like flies to a dunghill, many more development organizations.

Uganda's total number of development organizations does however look very high to me - but I can't tell from the chart if it is appropriate for a country of its size. A comparison with Ethiopia, to Uganda's north east, might therefore be revealing. Ethiopia apparently has a population of 88 million, a per capita GDP $400 less than Uganda's, and receives a lot more ODA. Yet at 598, Ethiopia has 271 fewer development organizations than Uganda, whose number of development offices begins to look suspiciously inflated.

Now turn to a comparison of Rwanda and Burundi: again we run into a possible case of development office inflation. Rwanda's population is 19% larger than its neighbour but has two-thirds more development organizations (including finance, training, private sectors etc.) and one third more CSOs, all both no doubt funded in part or whole by Rwanda's 83% fatter ODA budget. Both Burundi and Rwanda have had periods of genocide in recent history and they both have a similar level of infant mortality and HIV infection, so in terms of international pity the two states should be about equal.

Like Ugandans are more wealthy than Ethiopians, so Rwandans are slightly richer (if that word can be used to distinguish two shitpoor states) than Burundi. In 2008 Burundi scored slightly lower (better) on the Freedom House number (Civil liberties + Political Rights) so political oppression is unlikely signficant. You'd expect Rwanda to have a few more development organizations compared to Burundi but Burundi is so incredibly poor and development organizations are supposed to help a country develop, aren't they?

What explains the development organization profile of Uganda vs. Ethiopia and Rwanda vs. Burundi - why do the poorer states not have a higher number of development organizations compared to their comparable neighbours? I suggest Uganda and Rwanda have popular tourist attractions which global tranzis like to visit. International organizations and non-governmental groups are more likely to develop a funding relationship or set up a regional office in a state with a major tourist attraction than one which does not because when the global tranzi goes on work call he or she can take time out to visit - perk of the job, if you like. It only makes sense.

On this matter Uganda has three World Heritage sites, which is five less than Ethiopia's, but one of them is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the hugely popular and endangered Mountain Gorilla. Big Ape tourism is one reason Uganda has 500,000 more tourists a year than beautiful Ethiopia. What about Rwanda? You guessed it, there are Mountain Gorillas there too, in Volcanoes National Park. But not in Burundi, which means the latter now lags Rwanda's tourist figures upwards 388%.

South Central Africa: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana

Malawi possesses the largest population, yet despite high infant mortality and elevated levels of HIV infection, and being the second poorest of the states, it is, relatively speaking, the worst off for development organizations. Sure, in this region the competition is very high, with Malawi not being badly off for tourists. But possessing a land area of just over 100 square kilometres it does not have the same potential for safari tourism that its three-seven times larger neighbours can exploit. In 2009 Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana had between 28-36% of their land area protected in environmental law compared to 15% in Malawi.

Excluding the fun Mugabe's having at Zimbabwean's expense (which probably suppresses Zimbabwe's ODA and CSO figures) Malawi would undoubtedly be the poorest of the four states badly in need of the most development organizations. Another telling figure on the chart is the number of IGOs that want to set up office in Malawi - not many. That Malawi posted a comparatively reasonable FH number of 8, compared to Zimbabwe's 13 did not seem to help much. Like Zambia, Zimbabwe possesses half of the Victoria Falls natural wonder. It also possesses a total of five World Heritage sites.

I would guess that the very high HIV infection rate in wealthy Botswana, another excellent development safari holiday destination, accounts for much of its stupendous levels of ODA.

West Central Africa: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad

Mali, of Timbuktu yore, dominates the development industry in this region whilst being neither the poorest or the largest population. Mali possesses four World Heritage sites (three of them for cultural importance). However, I hear objections the sub-Saharan African state's relative political stability of FH 5 may provide an 'innocent' explanation for the high number of IGOs, CSOs and development assistance, at least compared to its neighbour Burkina Faso, FH 8.

I'm loathe to accept this as an explanation. We know from Zimbabwe's high level of development organization that a very oppressive state does not always deter the committed development tourist, so a mere 3 points on the FH scale between Mali and Burkina Faso isn't going to matter. The four World Heritage sites must richly appeal to the tranzi's sense of non-Western civilization. The preference for providing aid to Mali could only be motivated by tourism. Mali and Burkina Faso both have charismatic mega-fauna, like hippopotamus, giraffe and elephant, but Mali has the Timbuktu too.

Further east into Niger, the Second Taureg Rebellion and a habit of tourists going missing might explain why Niger, which has the same level of population as Burkina Faso, is not yet challenging in the big fauna tourism market. Given the political instability in Niger and attacks on foreigners the state's lower numbers of development organization and ODA cannot be a surprise. Chad is the wealthiest, least populous, and has the most oppressive government of the four. This might explain why it's per capita number of development organizations sits closer to Niger than Mali and Burkina Faso. There's not much to visit in Chad that cannot be seen somewhere better, so Chad ends up with fewer IGOs than Botswana.

Southern Africa: Lesotho and Swaziland

The last case study is a very clear example of development tourism. The richer, more oppressive state with smaller population has come to possess the greater number of development organization (the amount of ODA though is weighted heavily in favour of the more populous, freer state). Does the International Baby-Food Action Network really have to have a base in Swaziland and not in Lesotho where there is an equally serious problem of child mortality (and presumably more babies dying)?

Sources: TOT 1-9 | POP (M) | GDP p/c ($) | ODA ($) | FH# 2008 | HIV | INF. M | Tourists 1/2 |

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