This paper provides an overview of the small but growing literature on the bilateral foreign aid activities carried out by the five BRICS countries. While these so-called emerging donors are steadily gaining prominence in international development, they are certainly not new to the field, with foreign aid programs dating back as far as the 1950s. The recent increase in both the size and scope of their development activities around the globe is regarded by some as a threat to the international aid architecture dominated by the United States and its allies in Western Europe and Japan. What do we know about the size, scope and institutional design of the BRICS countries’ aid activities? What can we learn about these donors’ aid motives by analyzing the pattern of their aid recipients and focal sectors? Does the existing qualitative and quantitative literature allow us to draw conclusions about the effects of BRICS aid on economic growth, other development outcomes, governance and conflict in recipient countries? Moreover, how will BRICS aid affect the DAC-centered international aid architecture and the way the so-called traditional donors provide aid? While our examination of existing scholarly work allows us to draw some tentative conclusions, it also underscores the considerable variation BRICS donors show in their aid approaches; they rarely act as a group in international development cooperation. We also highlight the major avenues and challenges for future research.
Funding: The authors are grateful for generous support from the framework of the Singapore Ministry of Education Tier 2 Grant (MOE2014-T2-2-157), ”From Emerging Markets to Rising Powers? Power Shift in International Economic Governance.”