The impact of development partner projects in the developing world

The impact of development partner projects in the developing world

Development agencies can be categorized into:

  • Bilateral/ National – They receive funding from the government in their home countries, and use the funding to aid developing countries. They are mainly from OECD countries and include USAID, Sida, GIZ, CIDA, JICA and DFID
  • Multilateral/ International organizations – They obtain their funding from multiple governments and spend it on projects in various countries. They include UN agencies, World Bank Group, ADB, and AfDB

The mandates of these agencies differ in scope and have diverse roles and functions. For instance, USAID which is the largest bilateral provider of development assistance in the world covers nearly every development challenge in 36 different program areas whereas WHO is a specialized multilateral agency concerned with international public health.

The impact these agencies have had in the developing world has always been a controversial topic as they are not solely responsible for improvements in human development in these regions, different factors influence how countries develop, and there is lack of transparency in the sector. However, it is clear that by implementing development programs in agriculture, health systems, democracy, human rights, trade, economic growth, education, poverty, environment, climate change, gender equality, and water and sanitation; development agencies play a critical role in addressing the political, social, economic and humanitarian challenges faced by developing countries.

The role they play in the achievement of the recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals cannot be over-emphasized particularly in the achievement of Goal 17 which aims to ensure “no one is left behind” in the implementation of these goals through partnerships in finance, technology, capacity-building, trade, and systemic issues.
Their main source of funding is Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) which makes up more than two-thirds of external finance for least-developed countries. The UN has set a 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) target for donor/ developed countries in ODA to developing countries. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) development aid in 2015 amounted to USD 131.6 billion with only six countries having reached the UN target – United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden. This is shown in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1: Donor countries ODA as per cent of GNI in 2015 (Source: OECD)
The DAC list of ODA recipients categorizes developing countries according to their GNI per capita as reported by the World Bank. These categories include least developed countries, other low income countries, and middle income countries and territories.
The impact of development agencies is influenced by two main factors (i) the characteristics of the recipient country and national government policies and (ii) characteristics of development activity and agency policies and practices. The list of the positive impacts these agencies have had as outlined below is indicative only and non-exhaustive.


  • Improved access to quality health care and services. For instance at the just concluded Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the World Bank and Global Fund made a commitment to invest USD 24 billion in Africa over the next three to five years to cover universal health.
  • Reduced child and infant mortality especially due to increased access to vaccines. This is seen in the case of WHO whose emergency yellow fever vaccination campaigns have already reached more than 13 million people in Angola and more than 3 million in Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Health services improvement including infectious disease control and maternal and child health care
  • Improvement of skills of health care providers
  • Health system strengthening including the financial risk management for health and strengthening the capacity of local and central level managers in the health sector. This is evident in the Global Fund GMS project that is providing technical support to countries receiving grants from the Global Fund.
    Advantech is one of the partner organizations dedicated to helping Global Fund beneficiaries find the solutions they need to successfully manage their grants and fight the destructive effects of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
  • Rehabilitation of public hospitals
  • Building up partner countries’ preparedness and response to pandemics such as the Ebola virus


  • Improved school enrollment and access to resources by schools. For instance through the DFID-funded iMlango e-learning programme, primary schools in Kenya are being given access to online learning resources, electronic attendance monitoring, and broadband internet access via satellite
  • Construction and rehabilitation of schools
  • Human resource development through such approaches as vocational training programs and support for higher education in sectors such as engineering and health.


  • Increased access to credit facilities by the populations at the “Bottom of the pyramid”


  • Increased value-addition of agricultural and fisheries sector produce
  • Preparation of national-level crop development strategies
  • Improvement of cultivation techniques, building of irrigation and water management systems, and facilitating post-harvest processing and distribution


  • Implemented drought resilience projects particularly in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands communities
  • Strengthened capacity of water management agencies regarding sustainable service delivery – financial management, non-revenue water management and facilities operation and maintenance
  • Support in addressing climate change including sustainable management of forestry resources
  • Development of natural resource inventory systems
  • Sustained fight against illegal wildlife trade and poaching


  • Improved cross-border transactions for instance through One Stop Border Posts as is the case of JICA
  • Port development and expansion
  • Financial and technical assistance in areas such as building efficient transport systems, constructing power grids and establishing water-supply and waste treatment systems
  • Peace and stability

    • Short-term and medium – to long-term assistance in post conflict countries to rebuild stable states, strengthen government capabilities, and support anti-terrorism measures
    • Promotion of free and genuine electoral processes: assistance has included technical support for election commissions, provision of electoral commodities, international and domestic election monitoring, political party capacity building

    However, the assistance provided by these agencies is increasingly being dwarfed by private remittances, foreign direct investment, and philanthropic flows as seen in Figure 2 below.


    Figure 2: USAID support to developing countries as compared to other financial flows (Source: Centre for Global Development)

    Some of the documented negative impacts of development partner projects on the other hand include

    • Political dependency whereby these agencies get political leverage thus making decisions and planning in recipient countries more reliant on their involvement despite the fact that their motivation and values may not align with those of the public or government.
    • Inhibits sustainable economic developments when their programs are used, intentionally or not, as a long-term strategy. This is also the case when there is increased investment in one sector which outperforms the other neglected sectors.
    • Our pool of consultants has working experience with a variety of development agencies including: AfDB, DANIDA, DFID, EC, FAO, Gates Foundation, GAVI, GIZ, Global Fund, IFAD, JICA, NORAD, SIDA, UN, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF,UNIDO, UNOPS, USAID, WB, WFP and WHO. The M&E consultancy services we have provided and continue to provide have improved programmatic effectiveness ensured the sustainability of development programs and made it possible to compare project performance at the organization level.

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