One manual cannot develop Africa

Swedish development cooperation should recognize the many differences between African countries. No single manual can serve them all. Moreover, Sweden should support more already existing African development initiatives. These are some of the Nordic Africa Institute’s comments to the draft for a new Swedish policy framework on development cooperation.

The Nordic Africa Institute welcomes the government’s new policy framework on development cooperation and is in general content with its approach and goals. However, some points need to be clarified and emphasized. Swedish development cooperation must acknowledge the diverse economic, political, cultural and social conditions that shape African countries.

“In several African countries, governments and people have good ideas on how to improve their lives. They need support rather than a Swedish pre-made blueprint of development. A good aid policy should not be imposing ideas on how to resolve development problems in Africa. Appreciation of local norms and cultures is not the same as compromising with global principles of human rights. Effective development partnership demands skillful diplomacy and equal dialogue, NAI director Iina Soiri points out.

Iina Soiri

In addition, the government’s document hardly mentions growing urban centers, other than describing them as environmental hazards. Yet, in many African countries, cities are the drivers of economic development.

“Not only the capitals, but also smaller towns in peripheral areas grow and become commercial centers. So urbanization in Africa actually contributes to a decentralization of economic and political power away from the capitals. Our institute has several researchers studying this trend”, Soiri adds.

The Nordic Africa Institute also stresses that the new Swedish policy on development cooperation should recognize the importance of institutional cooperation between Nordic and African research institutes. Social sciences are too often given lower priority than technology and natural sciences. Analyses and findings from social sciences can meet many of the challenges that African countries face today.

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