Something old, something new

    Photo by: Leo Reynolds / CC BY-NC-SA

     For a handful of bilateral donors, 2011 is a year of landmark celebrations.

    The Korea International Cooperation Agency is celebrating two decades as South Korea’s official aid arm. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, meanwhile, are this year’s golden jubilarians.

    Then there’s Agence Française de Développement. The French Development Agency is now 70 years old, making it the oldest bilateral donor.

    AFD works unlike other bilateral donors: It functions as a development bank and a specialized financial institution, offering financing in various forms, namely grants, subsidies, guarantees, loans, equity shareholdings, cofinancing and local bank intermediation.

    Dov Zerah heads AFD. In a conversation with Devex a few weeks after taking helm of the agency in June 2010, he described the French bilateral aid group as “still a young old lady that is prospering.” He was also clear about where AFD should focus its energy at 70: reinforcing the growth trends in Africa.

    Zerah seems to have got his wish. Months after we spoke with him, the French government released its new framework for development cooperation, which says that France will strengthen its partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa to support sustainable, job-creating growth. The framework covers the years 2011 to 2020.

    In particular, AFD will allocate 60 percent of the resources provided to it by the state to sub-Saharan Africa, especially in the sectors of agriculture and agro-industries, infrastructure, education and health. The framework named 14 priority African countries that will receive more than 50 percent of French grant funding: Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

    In 2011, AFD will be “forging an increasing number of partnerships” with other development actors such as non-governmental organizations – mainly French NGOs – local authorities, private foundations and multilateral banks, according to Zerah.

    These development players “help increase the outreach and effectiveness of our actions,” Zerah said to mark the release of AFD’s 2010 annual report in May. “In a globalized world, the only winning strategies are cooperation strategies.”

    And what about AFD’s 70th anniversary celebrations?

    Zerah said AFD will organize events to help raise French public awareness of North-South issues, particularly highlighting development results.

    There’s also an open-air exhibition, “Objectif Développement,” which was launched in May in Bordeaux and will be traveling to major French cities throughout the year. It’s at Place de la Victoire in Clermont-Ferrand this week through Oct. 3. Head over to http://www.objectif-developpement.fr (the site is in French) to see an interactive timeline of AFD’s history and the tour’s schedule.

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    About the author

    • Eliza Villarino

      Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.