Working Paper

The Political Economy of Aid Allocation in Africa: Evidence from Zambia

Date Published

May 2, 2015


Takaaki Masaki



Masaki, Takaaki. 2015. The Political Economy of Aid Allocation in Africa: Evidence from Zambia. AidData Working Paper #5. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.

Update: A revised version of this paper has been published in the African Studies Review.


Does electoral politics influence the allocation of foreign aid within aid-recipient countries? Despite the abundance of studies on the determinants of aid allocation, the existing literature offers little leverage on this question, largely due to the paucity of data on the locations of donor-funded projects. In this essay, I utilize newly available data on the georaphical distribution of development projects in Zambia to test whether electorial incentivies shape aid allocation at the sub-national level. Challenging a widespread belief in African politics that autocrats reward their own core supporters with more resources, I argue -- and find strong evidence -- that when they have limited knowledge about citizens' voting preferences, political elites distribute more donor projects to districts where opposition to the ruling party (or incumbent president) enjoys greater popularity; and districts where a majority of voters share the ethnicity of the incumbent president.

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Takaaki Masaki

Takaaki Masaki

Senior Research Analyst

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