Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa: Development Without Democracy

Reviewed by Mamadou Gazibo

In This Review

Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa: Development Without Democracy
by Edited by Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens
Zed Books, 2016
204 pp.
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In the early 1990s, a wave of democracy swept the African continent, leading many observers to proclaim enthusiastically that the region was experiencing its “second independence.” Many expected that with the end of the Cold War, foreign powers would no longer support authoritarian regimes. Others saw promise in the “democratic conditionality” policies through which international organizations and Western donors tied their aid to political reform. These hopes went largely unrealized; as Hagmann and Reyntjens observe in this well-organized, fascinating collection, foreign aid to authoritarian countries actually increased from 1990 to 2013. Hagmann and Reyntjens open the book by introducing the existing debate; Nicolas van de Walle concludes it by observing the emergence of “democracy fatigue” in Africa. Rita Abrahamsen argues that the definition of democracy has changed in development-aid circles, with security and stability now prioritized over liberty. The remaining chapters consist of six case studies of authoritarian countries that receive high levels of aid (Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Uganda). Although it does not provide final answers, this volume offers comprehensive explanations of donors’ motives in supporting such regimes—and details the consequences of that support.