Budget support in Senegal: Revamping an old tool in the aid toolbox

European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica shakes hands with Macky Sall, president of Senegal. The EU views Senegal — the most stable democracy in West Africa — as an opportunity to experiment with new aid strategies and modalities, namely variations on traditional budget support. Photo by: European Union

Budget support is a controversial aid modality these days. When aid is given directly to recipient governments, impact — as well as the funds themselves — can be difficult to track. In the value for money era, and with a greater demand on implementers to quickly evaluate learning and adapt, some are asking whether budget support is an ineffective tool.

On the heels of the United Kingdom’s announcement in November that it would end all budget support, other donors are naturally taking a look at their own allocations. But the European Commission doesn’t view budget support as a zero-sum game, particularly in stable democracies that might serve as a litmus test for what works in development, like Senegal.

“Sometimes, it's the best tool,” Anna Ropers Bergeot, chief of rural development and civil society in Senegal, told Devex during a press trip with European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica to Senegal.

Bergeot pointed to Senegal as an example. One of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Senegal boasts a relatively robust governance system, less mired by corruption and waste. While there isn’t a perfect candidate in terms of total efficiency and transparency, Bergeot said Senegal perhaps comes closest in West Africa.

Even then, Bergeot pointed out, budget support must be tempered with results-oriented agreements and benchmarks. In short, it’s a good time, and place, to redesign one of the oldest tools in the aid toolbox.

The commission has committed close to 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in aid to Senegal together with EU partners, and of the Commission’s more than $230 million contribution for the period ending in 2017, more than half is delivered through budget support. Senegal will also receive $84.5 million toward projects from the new $2 million Emergency Trust Fund to Address the Root Causes of Migration.*

”Although our budget support is sector reform for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, with specific goals related to supporting family-owned farms which are on the brink of survival, [to access] better seeds, better techniques, for example,” he said.

“This is the first time we’ve attempted sector-specific and reform-driven budget support,” Bergeot said. “We’re in a position in our cooperation with Senegal that allows us to work in this way, and we believe it’s going well, and could be a model for the region.”

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*Update, May 4, 2016: This article has been updated to clarify the commission's financial commitment to Senegal.

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.