In This Review

The Delusion of Knowledge Transfer: The Impact of Foreign Aid Experts on Policymaking in South Africa and Tanzania
The Delusion of Knowledge Transfer: The Impact of Foreign Aid Experts on Policymaking in South Africa and Tanzania
By Susanne Koch and Peter Weingart
Saint Philip Street Press, 2020, 396 pp
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The use of foreign experts to provide technical assistance and “knowledge transfer” to low-income countries has long been criticized as an ineffective form of foreign aid. Based on careful case studies in South Africa and Tanzania, Koch and Weingart examine the recent record. Their critique is pretty withering even as they accept that these experts—engineers, economists, agronomists, and public policy analysts—harbor good intentions. Foreign experts struggle to help poorer countries build local capacities; worse still, expert advice tends to advance the agendas of big donors at the expense of domestic control over policy. In a sharp chapter on the education sector in Tanzania, the authors show that the interests of donors often superseded those of Tanzanians themselves. Disappointingly, they propose no specific reforms beyond vague suggestions to devote more funding to capacity building, albeit without foreign experts. Their exhaustive analysis offers no evidence that such aid would be more effective.