Guinea is the recipient of both bilateral and multilateral assistance. In particular, bilateral aid to Guinea has largely been characterized by an emphasis on social development while being sensitive to major domestic events. Moreover, France and the United States are the top two donor countries to Guinea, which is not at all surprising due the role of colonial legacy in shaping foreign aid and American commitment to global assistance. Foreign assistance from France and the U.S. to Guinea is primarily directed by AFD and USAID, respectively, and is focused on fighting poverty through various socioeconomic programs. Nevertheless, the ODA Guinea receives is relatively small ($360million) compared to many other countries across the continent and has failed to spur the country’s economic growth. A glimpse into the sociopolitical history of the country as well as an evaluation of the various aid programs may provide some explanations for foreign aid’s minimal impact on Guinea’s economic development.
Since its creation in the 1960’s, USAID programs in Guinea have mainly targeted agriculture, education and health. In addition, these programs were and continue to be complemented by Peace Corps projects with the same fundamental objectives. With a focus on human development, USAID has funded initiatives aimed at strengthening local capacity of human health resources, agriculture and natural resource management, and governance through the implementation of programs that reduce infant mortality, increase small businesses’ access to finance and facilitate the building of transparent and accountable government institutions. Similarly, the endeavors of the AFD have been centered around the promotion of good governance, rural development and youth support Moreover, the agencies’ weight on institutional development represents the influence of Guinea’s socioeconomic and political climate on the type of foreign assistance it receives.
In the 1970’s, USAID shifted its approach to agricultural development to focus on local entrepreneurship as a result of a change in government that led to a more market-oriented economy. Moreover, with the country’s gradual liberalization in the 1990’s under Conté, USAID “worked toward balancing public sector and private sector interventions” (USAID.gov, June 2016). Two more obvious examples of how foreign assistance to Guinea has been influenced by domestic events are the $2.1 billion debt relief the country benefited in 2012 shortly after electing its first civilian government and the total share of U.S. aid dedicated to fighting the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Of an estimated $18.3 million in bilateral aid in FY2014, 97% was designed “to support Guinea’s national health strategy with a particular focus on health system strengthening” (Guinea: In Brief, CRS report 2014). This certainly raises questions about the significance of other USAID programs not necessarily aimed at the health sector.
Despite the creation of several entrepreneurial programs, which Dambisa Moyo advocates as one of the reasons for growth and poverty reduction, Guinea still has one of the lowest per capita GDP in the world. While it is important to acknowledge the devastating role of Ebola on the country’s current underperformance, the nature of foreign aid to Guinea is not particularly conducive to economic growth. For example, less than 3% of bilateral ODA in FY2014 was directed specifically towards economic infrastructure and services. Therefore, a greater emphasis should be put on market development and other programs with long-term effects in order for international assistance to have a positive impact on Guinea’s economic development.