This is a joint post with Julie Walz.
South Africa announced last week that it will launch its own development aid agency in 2011 - the South African Development Partnership Agency. This move places South Africa ahead of other emerging donors such as India and China , who have yet to create separate agencies to dispense aid.
No longer just a recipient of aid, South Africa has quietly ramped up its role as a leader on the African continent, largely via peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction, and even analytical work.
South Africa’s development assistance program originated in the post-apartheid era, as an attempt to improve South Africa’s international image and win friends at the United Nations. In 2001, South Africa launched the African Renaissance Fund, although the majority of aid continues to be given through various government departments, notably the Departments of Defense and Education.
A 2008 IDRC paper is one of the few to study South African aid, noting that their assistance is directed almost entirely to other African nations, with over 70% focused on the member states of the South African Development Community. Although South Africa, like most emerging donors, has no systematic approach to track its aid flows, development assistance for the year 2006 is estimated between $363 – $475 million. This is 0.18% of South Africa’s GDP from 2006 – which matches the figures for US development assistance as a share of the economy. The African National Congress proposes a foreign aid goal of 0.2-0.5% of GDP, which would place it on par with some of the most charitable DAC donors today.
Interestingly, South Africa maintains that it is a “development partner,” rather than an emerging donor, positioning itself as a key player in managing interdependence on the African continent. Perhaps this is one more indication that the old 20th century paradigm of rich Northern donors and poor Southern participants continues to be challenged with the emergence of new donors. And will South Africa join DAC? Stay tuned!