While anti-government demonstrations that erupted this week against the Kenyan government have numerous political, security and social implications for the entire international community, they further draw light on the complications between international donors and receipt governments. In particular to Kenya, multilateral/international donors have possessed a long complicated relationship with the Kenyan government which has been largely fueled by media accusations and huge cuts in health aid.
Theoretically speaking, international donor agencies and democratic advocates have long argued that aid leverages political and social reform while also promoting economic growth and greater equality. Therefore, in order to build their democratic intentions in receipt governments, they have principally relied on broad techniques that seek to establish liberal entities in a variety of sectors. While these activities have proven to uphold and progress democratic ideals in Sub-Saharan countries such as Botswana and Mauritius, multilateral/international donors have failed to prioritize their policies in Kenya.
For instance, international donor agencies have supplied both training and funding to the Kenyan government and civil society where activities have ranged from security, health, education, conflict prevention, agriculture, women’s empowerment and other areas.
While other underlying factors could be incorporated in this causation dynamic such as a lack of understanding or lack of commitment, the failure of multilateral donor agencies to provide a minimized and focus-oriented aid policy is the fundamental factor that has guided donor malfunctions in Kenya.
Abiding by Stephen Brown’s contention in Foreign Aid and Democracy Promotion: Lessons from Africa, adopting a broad multi-layered foreign aid approach lends donor agencies to draw less on strategic goals while also constraining themselves financially and politically.
Therefore, in order for international donors to progress in Kenya, they must adopt a “less is more” approach that still promotes democratic ideals and institutions but focuses more on their underlying priorities.