Donor Money Does More Harm Than Good In Global South

Donor Money Does More Harm Than Good In Global South
The Global South has a long-standing propensity to borrow development prescriptions. From the academy that hinges development on cookie-cutter indicators, indices and theories to statesmen that equate progress with exogenous assistance and acknowledgement such as removal from grey lists, ‘favorable’ conditionalities, donor funded projects and capacity building programs, development in the Global South is largely shaped, monitored, penalized and incentivized by entities other than itself.

In large part, borrowed development prescriptions are unresponsive to the needs on the ground. Donors are more preoccupied with whether policy models mobilize political support than whether they are implementable or responsive. Projects and programs based on exogenous development prescriptions are typically model-based and deductive; allowing little understanding of contextual realities and ultimately widening the disjuncture between policy and practice. Even when development prescriptions are not directly donor-funded, they are commonly characterized by exogenous design and subsequent failure to find roots in indigenous context. The concurrence of lofty ideals and lack of implementation strategies is generally symptomatic of attempts to replicate buzzwords and success precedents from other contexts.

A nascent body of post-development literature contends that borrowed development prescriptions create an artificial form of development that triggers tensions, uncertainties, and social conflict. Post-development thought applies the lessons of post structuralism to emphasize the particular and the notion that development is rooted in a meta-narrative which reflects the interests of its practitioners.

The coloniality of knowledge makes it possible for development to both create and sustain power relations that reinforce the interests of its practitioners. The invisibility of this form of coloniality makes it possible for the colonized subjects to act as administrators of the system on behalf of the colonizer when the colonizer is no longer physically visible. In his article, “Reflections on Development,” leading post-development theorist Arturo Escobar highlights the surge in grassroots movements and powerful critiques of development being articulated by Third World scholars.

The coloniality of knowledge provides legitimization for the continuation of colonial projects in the twenty-first century.



The growing realization that development has failed to resolve the problems of the Third World in the post-war era has led to indigenous initiatives that aim to redefine development through local knowledge and culture. Many former colonies are grappling with the question of whether they can possibly craft a fundamentally different future from the present, while remaining constrained by colonial dominance in their ways of knowing, seeing and envisioning the world.

The Global South faces a knowledge production crisis. In the absence of indigenous pedagogical tools and knowledge frameworks, policymakers cannot craft contextually relevant policies without exogenous technical assistance engineered to safeguard hegemonic interests. The coloniality of knowledge provides legitimization for the continuation of colonial projects in the twenty-first century; it determines how we think about questions of development by reproducing a meta-narrative of development and perpetuating a systematic epistemicide of indigenous knowledge.

Academic success depends on willingness to be indoctrinated to this meta-narrative, and schools incorporate syllabi that characterize the coloniality of knowledge; even readings on indigenous problems come from white men with remote knowledge about the Global South’s contextual realities. Graduates of these universities ultimately become statesmen with little critical-thinking capacity, conditioned to accept international assistance for face value.

International organizations function as central knowledge hubs whereby they are able to shape norms on development through their capacity to generate consensual transnational knowledge, combining the doctrinal views of their most influential members with the diverse approaches undertaken by governments from developing countries. The prominent French political scientist Olivier Nay examined the critical role played by the World Bank and the OECD in the development of the ‘fragile state’ concept and in the consolidation of a knowledge-based agenda set out by Western aid donors to justify assistance to poor countries.

In the Global South, such knowledge is preserved in a vacuum generated by lack of indigenous knowledge alternatives and dependence on a restricted group of prestigious, Western academic institutions that determine the subject and methods of research. The product is what Andre Gunder Frank famously termed, The Development of Underdevelopment.”