Donor political interests have heavily influenced aid flows to North Africa in the past. This has reduced the effectiveness of aid which, with the exception of Tunisia, has not been associated with sustained economic growth. The Arab Spring provides an opportunity to reappraise aid flows to the region and in my paper 'The Political Economy of Aid Flows to North Africa' I argue that future flows have to support the democratization process, generate pro-poor growth, support social safety nets, and address the pressing issues of widening inequalities and unemployment.
The North Africa region--Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia--has for many decades been the world's largest recipient of foreign aid in per capita terms. Taken along with its neighbouring sub-region, namely, the Middle East to form MENA (Middle East and North Africa), the region is the third largest global recipient of aid in absolute terms, after Southern and Central Africa and Asia. However, aid to the MENA region is highly variable and much of the variation is driven by responses to conflicts within the region from bilateral donors. In addition to conflict, geopolitics more generally plays an important role in the aid allocation process to MENA. This is reflected in the fact that the share of bilateral aid to the region is comparatively high, and the largest single donor to the region is the USA, accounting for on average 38 per cent of total bilateral aid between 1980 and 2006. Donor interest, in the form of geopolitical and commercial considerations, are important in the aid relationship in MENA because the region itself is considered to be so geopolitically and commercially important by Western powers--conflict ridden, the centre of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the birth place of Al-Qaeda, and the source of much of the world's oil supplies.
To what extent has donor interest determined aid flows the region?
The paper concludes that donor interest has played a major role in the aid allocation process and that this may have had a detrimental effect on aid effectiveness as well as resulting in excessive amounts of aid flows to the region in light of its predominately middle-income status outside the Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC)countries. As a result donors in the past have propped up repressive and autocratic regimes, such as the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.
Looking at the case studies from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia from the point of view...