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COVID-19 could set back progress for Ghana to move beyond aid, MPs warn

20 November 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, leading to an estimated 323 deaths in Ghana, could set back progress being made for the country to transition beyond aid, the International Development Committee’s Sub-Committee today warns in its report.

The coronavirus pandemic, leading to an estimated 323 deaths in Ghana, could set back progress being made for the country to transition beyond aid, the International Development Committee’s Sub-Committee today warns in its report.

In its work reviewing the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI)’s review on The Changing Nature of UK Aid, the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI found that coronavirus could exacerbate existing inequalities. They argue it is imperative for UK aid to continue to support health and education programmes. By focusing too much on economic development, and withdrawing support too quickly from other sectors, the Government is at risk of undermining Ghana’s chances at a sustainable transition away from aid.

The Sub-Committee also agreed with ICAI’s recommendations that Ghanaians should be asked about their priorities for development, and that the UK should work more strategically with multilateral partners to make its voice heard and ensure Official Development Assistance (ODA) reflects both Ghanaian and UK priorities.

The Sub-Committee heard from witnesses that the UK Government’s support, especially its focus on girls’ education, had been key in helping Ghana to strengthen its status as lower-middle income country. In order to build on these success stories, it is imperative that this relationship continues to be treated as a priority.

Chair of the Sub-Committee, Theo Clarke, said:

“In many ways, Ghana is a real success story; working its way up to a lower-middle income country and finding ways to finance its own development. However, with coronavirus wreaking havoc, much of the progress being made could be derailed.

“That is why it is absolutely crucial that UK aid is targeted to Ghanaians strategically and taking into account their needs and priorities. With economies suffering around the world, and the UK’s ODA budget reducing significantly with the fall in GDP, there is a very real risk that those in less developed countries will be left behind.

“In our report, we welcome progress facilitated by the UK Government, particularly around girls’ education and governance, and recommend steps to improve aid to Ghana. This underpins the importance of both ICAI and an independent Parliamentary body scrutinising Government policy: identifying areas of improvement and offering solutions.”

Key findings and recommendations

The full list of key findings and recommendations are:

  • A Green/Amber rating was an appropriate assessment of the UK aid portfolio in Ghana, and we endorse the six recommendations made to the UK Government by ICAI.
  • We hope that the FCDO will utilise the opportunity that the DFID-FCO merger presents to help further integrate the UK's support for a Ghanaian transition beyond aid, and will continue to monitor the effectiveness of UK aid delivery under the new structure.
  • Evidence suggests that a sustainable transition towards economic development through increased domestic revenue mobilisation hinges on continued support to other sectors as well. The UK should maintain a diverse aid portfolio in Ghana with both financial and technical support in social sector areas such as healthcare and education.
  • The UK aid portfolio in Ghana has the opportunity to successfully support the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda, and enhance the sustainability of UK aid's results in Ghana. The FCDO should seek to increase its leverage in, and cooperation with, multilateral programmes in Ghana that are supported by UK aid to ensure they are coherent with UK aid priorities.
  • Significant progress remains to be done across the aid portfolio to ensure a sustainable transition away from aid. Ghanaian citizens' needs and preferences should continue to be included when assessing how fast to reduce aid in key social sector areas such as health, education and livelihoods.
  • We welcome the fact that the UK aid portfolio over 2011-2018 is widely acknowledged as having had a positive impact on Ghana's economic and social development. However, as the UK aid portfolio shifts towards reducing financial support for Ghana's social services, we are concerned about the impact on the most vulnerable, especially in the context of Covid-19.
  • The coronavirus pandemic and its global economic impact may negatively affect Ghana's economic trajectory and development needs, particularly in areas where UK ODA spend has reduced in recent years.
  • We welcome the Government's continued commitment to girls' education, especially in the northern regions of Ghana where strong inequalities remain. To help support an 'Empowered' and 'Inclusive' Ghana and in line with the Prime Minister’s priorities for the UK aid budget, the FCDO should continue to ensure girls' education remains a priority across UK aid spending in Ghana. In light of pressures on the UK aid budget due to Covid-19, the Department should engage with the Ghanaian Government to review the impact in terms of support for quality education in Ghana.

Further information

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