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European Year of Development

Adrian Kriesch / sh
January 9, 2015

The European Union is the biggest donor of official development aid. It has declared 2015 to be the “European Year of Development." This will be followed with great interest in recipient countries such as Tanzania.

An African child writing on a blackboard
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

It's time for bed at an orphanage in Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam. For 14-year-old Hafidh that also means it's time to get under his mosquito net. Hafidh and growing numbers of his friends can now protect themselves against malaria with nets provided by international development aid. This played an important role in halving the number of malaria cases in children under five in Tanzania between 2008 and 2013.

Despite such a success in the health sector, not all aid projects fulfill the hopes originally placed in them. In 2013 alone, 1.7 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of development aid went to Tanzania, which is the second-largest recipient of development aid in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite this, half the population still lives in poverty and frustration is growing. Here are some typical comments heard by DW's correspondent on the streets of Dar es Salaam.

"The money doesn't get to the right people, only a few people benefit."

"If you build schools, then you need new, modern buildings and good teachers. Of course development aid can help here. But if the money doesn't get to the right people, then nothing can be done."

An African child behind a mosquito net
Many more children in Tanzania are now protected against malariaImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"We have to work harder to ensure better, more sustainable development for our country. That's better than always relying on development aid - which only encourages corruption."

Need to agree on priorities

Adalgot Komba is the director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. He says it's high time that discussions at EU headquarters in Brussels include an assessment of the effectiveness of the aid provided.

"Sometimes you can get aid in the area that is not your priority. You can say: Our priorities are: 1, 2 and 3. Then the donor will tell you "no, we have money for a different 1, 2 and 3. Take it or leave it!" This is a serious problem in the development aid industry."

Such a dialogue is planned as part of the European Year of Development during which an assessment will also be made of progress made towards the 2015 Millenium Development Goals.

Two African children seen from the back writing on a blackboard
Tanzania's schools could benefit from more development aidImage: picture-alliance/ZB

First frozen funds released

Donor countries last flexed their muscles in October. Following a corruption scandal in Tanzania's energy sector, they froze aid payments of more than 400 million euros. This was prompted by claims that senior government officials had siphoned off funds from the country's central bank under the guise of energy contracts. The donors insisted that a credible investigation should take place.

On 8 January 2015, the standoff eased when Tanzania's development partners issued a statement saying they had released $15 million dollars. This is a fraction of the amount frozen but a sign that donors are satisfied with initial steps taken by the Tanzanian government to deal with the scandal.

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