Did Aid Promote Democracy in Africa? The Role of Technical Assistance in Africa’s Transitions

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Original Publication Date

April 1, 2015


Clark Gibson, Barak Hoffman, Ryan Jablonski


World Development


Did foreign aid impede or catalyze democratization in Africa in the 1990s? We argue that after the Cold War, donors increased their use of technical assistance in aid packages, improving their monitoring capacity and thus reducing autocrats’ ability to use aid for patronage. To remain in power, autocrats responded by conceding political rights to their opponents—from legalizing opposition parties to staging elections. We test our theory with panel data for all sub-Saharan African countries. While other factors played pivotal roles in Africa’s political liberalization, we find technical assistance helps to explain the timing and extent of Africa’s democratization.