US aid does not address Kenya’s most pressing needs, report says


United States’ development aid does not cater to the most pressing needs of beneficiaries in Kenya and other African countries, a new report says.

The report dubbed, Is Anyone Listening? Does US Foreign Assistance Target People’s Top Priorities? by Benjamin Leo, a director at US Centre for Global Development, indicates this does not seem to be happening.

It shows the US does not address what people cite frequently as the ‘most pressing problems’ facing their nations.

While the report indicates US largely funds health and education programmes, Africans consider jobs, the economy and infrastructure their top priorities.

Health and education have consistently ranked lowly in terms of their priority areas to require such donor assistance.

“Africans have consistently failed to cite health and education as a top tier problem,” says the report, adding, “The lack of donor alignment with developing country priorities – represented by governments, parliaments, and the general population – has plagued the development field for decades”.

This mismatch between US foreign aid and citizen priorities is bad development policy, bad foreign policy and bad security policy.

This is despite the fact that the US and other donors have pledged to take into consideration the needs of everyday citizens in recipient countries when disbursing aid.


Over the last decade, Kenya has received roughly Sh435 billion ($5 billion) in US development commitments.

During this time, citizens have repeatedly cited the same three national problems as their priorities; jobs, infrastructure and macroeconomic policies.

However, during this period, only six per cent of US development aid focused on these issues.

The report compares the US development assistance alignment trends with the two regional multilateral development banks (MDBs) – the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in terms of their priorities in financing development projects in Sub-Sahara Africa.

“By comparison, the African Development Bank – which is majority-led by regional member nations – performs significantly better than the United States.

Like the United States, however, the Inter-American Development Bank demonstrates a low relative level of support for people’s top concerns,” Mr. Leo argues.

The African Development Bank is a key player in the financing of key infrastructure projects in Kenya, in what is expected to create spill-over effects in the economy and accelerate growth.

Some of the key infrastructure projects include releasing funds for the construction of the temporary international arrivals terminal with an annual passenger capacity of 2.5 million at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The bank will also bankroll the planned construction of a 13-kilometre Outer Ring road traversing Nairobi East and Nairobi North road.

The report examines both Africa and Latin America, with findings indicating that the gulf is wider in Africa than in Latin America.

It recommends a number of policy issues, which should be considered if the US government plans to concertedly pursue closer alignment with local concerns and priorities.

Some of these include regular citizen surveys to help formulate foreign assistance strategies and programmatic priorities, redefining health assistance programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa and increase support for the African Development Bank among

Aid workers supply food to refugees from Blue Nile during a food aid distribution at the Yusuf Batil Refugee camp, in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, on June 23, 2012. United States’ development aid does not cater to the most pressing needs of beneficiaries in Kenya and other African countries, a new report says. AFP | FILE

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