Sovereignty matters: Africa, donors, and the aid relationship

Brown, William (2013). Sovereignty matters: Africa, donors, and the aid relationship. African Affairs, 112(447) pp. 262–282.



This article presents a critique of claims that aid undermines the sovereignty of African states. It argues that we need to start with a conceptual and analytical distinction between sovereignty seen as a right to rule on the one hand and other political issues to do with the national control over policy and outcomes on the other. This distinction is vital if we are to see more clearly the areas in which aid, as a particular form of external influence, does and does not have an impact on recipients. The article argues that sovereignty as a right to rule constitutes the very basis of the aid relationship but also endows African states with the agency with which to contest the terms of aid deals. The article provides a new reading of the politics of aid and, by reasserting the centrality of sovereignty as a central organising institution in contemporary aid relations, supports rather than questions the relevance of the discipline of IR to African studies.

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