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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .


Contending Theories on Development Aid: Post-Cold War Evidence from Africa
Leslie O. Omoruji


Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2001
223 pp HB 55 ISBN 0-7546-1878-1


This book uses an international relations perspective to look at how and why official aid flows to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have changed since the Cold War, focusing on motivations for giving aid.

The book begins by setting out the central theoretical debate, how far realist/neorealist and liberal theories can help explain patterns of aid flows now that Cold War-related motivations can no longer apply. The book then goes on to outline a useful quantitative methodology to explore the problem, drawing on measures of possible determinants of donor decision-making on aid (from those of strategic self-interest, such as exploitable mineral resources in recipient countries, to more humanitarian-related variables, such as economic need). The association between these variables and various nations? actual aid disbursements is then explored in order to tease out likely reasons for donation (as sometimes distinct from reasons stated in policy pronouncements). Time-series regression is used. The book offers useful case studies of the motivations of a number of key donors, with a separate chapter each devoted to a detailed discussion of the cases of France (the largest single donor to SSA), Japan, Norway and the USA. The book discusses the implications of the motivations for Africa and concludes by suggesting how aid can be rethought in the 21st century.

Whilst there are many diverse factors associated with individual donors? aid-giving, Omoruyi shows that overall patterns can be teased out and better understood through applying elements of realist/neorealist and liberal theory. Some of Omoruji?s substantive findings are also interesting in that they tend to support the explosion of certain myths (such as that Swedish aid is disinterested) and they suggest how things have changed for SSA since the Cold War (including the impact of extent of the withdrawal of aid-giving by donors in SSA in favour of other regions).

Why would this book be of interest to students of ethnic conflict and peace studies? Whilst no direct reference is made to peace and conflict in Africa, aid disbursement as a key economic force in SSA undoubtedly influences peace and conflict. This is perhaps most directly so in terms of patterns of aid-giving which are made in relation to the factors of foreign military presence in recipient states, recipient states? defence spending and to democratisation, about which useful information is provided. But it is also undoubtedly true in relation to other factors which appear to influence donors? aid-giving, from a desire to alleviate poverty to donors? trade interests. Overall, the shifting of aid to other regions away from SSA, a region which is least able to attract investment from other sectors, is also likely to have destabilising consequences. Thus this book will be useful reading for those researching the influence of such variables on peace and conflict and good background reading for others looking at peace and conflict in SSA.

There is little to criticise in this work. As a 2001 publication, the book will date quickly in terms of its substantive findings, although researchers may well find it useful to replicate the methodology used to gauge up-to-date trends. Figure/chart quality and page layout are occasionally disappointing.


Dr Rachel Naylor, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Ulster at Magee



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