The changing nature of UK aid in Ghana

Score summary

UK aid in Ghana is aligned with both governments’ strategic objectives to transition their development partnership beyond aid. UK aid offers relevant and mostly effective responses to Ghana’s development needs, but results may not be sustainable once the UK shifts from direct financing of services to technical assistance and other forms of support.


After two decades of economic growth, Ghana has gone from relative poverty to become one of West Africa’s wealthiest countries, but considerable development challenges remain. As Ghana’s economy transforms, its long-standing partnership with the UK is also changing, away from traditional bilateral aid to a broad-based development partnership aimed at mutual benefit.

The priorities guiding UK aid in Ghana in the 2011–2019 review period are aligned with both the UK aid strategy and Ghana’s Beyond Aid strategy. These include: 1) strengthening governance, 2) promoting prosperity through economic growth, and 3) improving human development outcomes by strengthening social sectors. Over the review period, DFID’s governance portfolio shifted focus to anti-corruption, tax policy and administration, and oil and gas revenue management – all central to Ghana’s ability to finance its own development. Towards the end of the period, key UK government departments were working together in a cross-departmental approach to support Ghana’s economic development. Social sector programming targeted Ghana’s poorest and most vulnerable, and focused on regions lagging behind, in line with UK aid’s commitment to gender equality and leaving no one behind. However, as the UK reduced bilateral aid, decisions on where to phase out direct financial support weren’t always based on sound analyses of how it would affect service delivery for the poorest.

DFID mostly met or exceeded the output targets set in programme documents and in the results framework for the 2011–2015 Operational Plan. However, this results framework covered less than half the spending during that period, while no results framework was stipulated in the Business Plan for 2016–17 to 2019–20. By conducting our own contribution analysis, we found, positively, that UK aid funding has often made important contributions to Ghana’s development results, particularly through its social sector programming. As part of transitioning the partnership beyond aid, UK aid to Ghana is increasingly channelled through multilateral partners such as the World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank and UN agencies. UK-funded multilateral programmes contribute to UK aid objectives, but the UK does not sufficiently maximise its influence over programming choices.

UK aid in Ghana has a mixed record in contributing to strong and sustainable institutions that do not rely on donor support for their continued functioning. Programming in the governance sector – especially on anti-corruption and tax revenue – builds on best practice for achieving sustained outcomes. Meanwhile, health and education service delivery projects run a considerable risk that development gains will be lost as DFID reduces direct financing of services through bilateral channels. In order to reach a larger number of beneficiaries directly with services, DFID developed delivery capacity outside of the state in some of its key social programmes. This delivered effective short-term results but at the cost of developing core state capacity for the sustainable delivery of services to Ghana’s citizens.


Executive summary

After more than two decades of continuous economic growth, Ghana has gone from relative poverty to become one of West Africa’s wealthiest countries, achieving the status of lower-middle-income country in 2011. As Ghana’s economy transforms, the country’s development partnership with the UK is also changing, from a traditional donor-recipient relationship to a development partnership of mutual benefit to both countries.

This country portfolio review assesses how UK aid in Ghana has been reoriented since 2011 to reflect and support this transition. The aim of UK aid is to help Ghana overcome its still considerable economic and governance challenges, reduce its reliance on traditional aid, and drive its own development, while protecting past development gains. A key priority is that Ghana’s economic growth is inclusive – in other words that it improves jobs and livelihoods, health care and education for all Ghanaians, including the poorest and most vulnerable of the country’s citizens and regions. This includes supporting Ghana in strengthening the competence and transparency of its institutions, and helping Ghanaian civil society keep the authorities accountable to its citizens.

Background

During its period of sustained growth, Ghana has made significant strides in improving conditions for its citizens. Ghana was the first African country to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, and the country also made strong improvements on a range of other MDGs. It is a stable democracy, with a vibrant civil society, an independent press, and regular free and fair elections. Since democracy was restored in 1992, elections have led to a peaceful change in government three times.

In 2007, Ghana discovered oil, with commercial production starting in 2011. With new recent discoveries, oil production is now expected, by 2025, to almost double its 2018 level to about 500,000 barrels a day. How well Ghana spends the considerable windfall from its oil and gas revenues to support inclusive, sustainable growth will be critical to the country’s future development progress.

Despite the many improvements, huge challenges remain. Indeed, in recent years economic growth has been modest and progress on poverty reduction has nearly come to a standstill. There are clear risks that some of Ghana’s development gains may be reversed in the face of macroeconomic instability, over-reliance on the export of a few commodities (cacao, gold and, recently, oil), high and growing public debt and increased inequality. Citizens report in Afrobarometer polls and in our own consultations that corruption has got worse.

The rural Northern and North East regions of Ghana have been falling behind the rest of the country, with both poverty and extreme poverty on the rise since 2013. There is also considerable and deepening inequality in service delivery, with much worse access to quality education and health care in the Northern region than the rest of the country. Nationwide, access to basic public services is worse for women and girls, and for disabled people.

Ghana’s government has made it clear that it wants its development partnerships to move beyond aid. The UK, which committed £2.8 billion in bilateral aid to Ghana between 1998 and 2017, has responded positively to Ghana’s ambition and the two countries have been working together to build new forms of cooperation. The UK aid approach in Ghana has also been influenced by the UK’s desire to move away from financing service delivery costs as expressed by its political leadership, and more recently the 2018 ‘Fusion Doctrine’, which sees aid as part of a range of economic, political and security levers to build mutually beneficial relationships with emerging markets and middle-income countries.

As part of the transition, and as a result of shifting more resources to poorer and more fragile countries, UK bilateral aid to Ghana has dropped, with bilateral aid programming from the Department for International Development’s Ghana office (DFID Ghana) in social sectors such as education and health seeing the greatest reductions in the country budget. The increase in the UK’s contributions to multilateral development assistance through, for example, the World Bank and UN agencies has only gone some way to make up for this reduction. There has also been increasing focus on the use of a combination of trade, investment and aid to support private sector development, job creation and inclusive growth. As a result of this shift, there is now a broader range of UK government actors involved, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), though the UK’s development partnership with Ghana is still dominated by DFID.

Relevance: How well has the UK aid portfolio responded to Ghana’s development needs and the UK’s strategic objectives?

The strategic priorities guiding the UK’s Ghana aid portfolio in the 2011–2019 period are aligned both with the 2015 UK aid strategy and with the Beyond Aid strategy of the Ghanaian government. During this period, DFID shifted its governance portfolio in Ghana from budget support and expenditure management to three new areas where it believed it could make a bigger difference: 1) anti-corruption, 2) tax policy and administration, and 3) oil and gas revenue management. All three areas are highly relevant to building Ghana’s self-reliance and addressing key barriers to inclusive growth.

In the social sectors, such as health and education, a large proportion of DFID’s programming targeted the needs and priorities of Ghana’s poorest and most vulnerable people as well as regions of the country lagging behind. As such, the strategy is strongly aligned with UK aid’s commitment to gender equality and leaving no one behind. More than 92% of bilateral UK aid expenditure in the social sectors in Ghana was targeted in full or in large part at groups who are (at risk of being) left behind.

We found, however, that as the UK looked to reduce its bilateral aid spending as part of transitioning its partnership with Ghana beyond aid, crucial decisions on reducing aid in the social sectors were made without a sound analysis of how this would affect service delivery for the poorest and most vulnerable. We found no convincing evidence that the decisions on where to stop and where to continue the financing of service delivery were based on analyses of needs, the sustainability of the services delivered, or capacities built. We also found that citizen consultation is not a systematic part of programme design, monitoring or evaluation.

The UK’s ability to deliver a transformative impact in Ghana’s development improved over the review period. DFID is well positioned and respected as a strategic partner for Ghanaian government agencies, and coordination between different UK government actors has improved. At the end of the period, key UK government departments were working together in a broad, cross-departmental approach to support Ghana’s economic development. This was a coherent response to the government of Ghana’s beyond aid priorities. At the same time, the closer cooperation between UK trade, investment and aid instruments helped DFID manage the risk to development objectives and ensure the proper use of official development assistance, although we note that this depended heavily on country leadership giving priority to development objectives as well as capacity in the DFID Ghana office.

While we were not convinced by DFID’s justifications for reducing aid to finance service delivery in the social sectors, or by the lack of systematic approach to citizen consultation, we have awarded a green-amber score for relevance, in recognition that the UK aid portfolio has responded well in most respects to Ghana’s development needs over the review period and is well aligned to broader UK aid objectives and commitments.

Effectiveness: How effective has UK aid been in achieving its strategic objectives in Ghana?

DFID mostly met or exceeded the output targets set in programme documents and in the results framework for the 2011–2015 Operational Plan. However, this results framework covered less than half the spending during that period, while no results framework was stipulated in the business plan for 2016–17 to 2019–20. Clear portfolio outcome measurements on longer-term achieved benefits are thus not in place. In DFID’s plans, strategic objectives were largely stated in terms of what UK aid was going to do, rather than what outcomes it wanted to achieve through those actions. The DFID plans did not include results frameworks to monitor progress on such target outcomes. This meant there was little guidance to country office staff as programmes were developed, monitored and adjusted, or when there was pressure to add new intervention areas.

However, based on our own contribution analysis of the evidence available, we found – positively – that UK aid programmes often contributed to Ghana’s development progress, although with varying levels of effectiveness. Out of the ten UK aid objectives for Ghana (in the areas of anti-corruption, human development and leaving no one behind, and private sector development and inclusive growth), we found strong contributions from UK bilateral aid for four objectives, and an essential contribution in two areas. Without the DFID programme, little would have been done on mental health care and complementary basic education. As a result of the UK aid intervention, more than 100,000 patients accessed mental health services in 2018 and about 200,000 children from hard-to-reach communities entered or re-entered formal schooling. UK aid’s contributions to Ghana’s development results were particularly strong in social sector programming focused on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Our contribution analysis also highlighted how factors outside DFID’s control negatively affected results, particularly the worsening macroeconomic conditions, which stalled and reversed poverty gains and made the government of Ghana less able to finance complementary actions. In some cases, such as the objective to strengthen access to social safety nets for the most vulnerable, the overall development result for Ghana was that more people were extremely poor in Ghana in 2017 than in 2013, but without the safety nets provided by UK support, many struggling households would have been even worse off than they were.

DFID’s relative programme success compared to other donors has been helped by strong partnerships, its technical capacity and the choices it made on delivery. DFID Ghana has a good relationship with the government of Ghana as well as with other donors, and is a respected and appreciated partner. As the UK has reduced its bilateral aid spending in Ghana, it has been able to rely on multilateral partners, such as the World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank and UN agencies, to contribute to progress against UK aid objectives. While we note many advantages of providing aid through multilateral channels in a transition context such as Ghana’s, we found that DFID has not worked strategically with partners to influence multilateral partner programming. Given the increasing proportion of UK aid funding to Ghana going through multilateral channels, this is an area where it needs to improve.

While UK aid has not been able to harness all its resources, including through multilaterals, to maximise the achievement of its objectives, and while there is a dearth of outcome data for UK bilateral aid programming, we found credible evidence that the UK aid portfolio in Ghana is contributing to important results. We have therefore given a green-amber score for effectiveness.

Sustainability: How likely are the results of UK aid to be sustained in the future?

Achieving sustainable results is the greatest challenge for external aid programmes. DFID has a mixed record in contributing to creating strong and sustainable Ghanaian state, civil society and market institutions that do not rely on donor support for their continued functioning. We judged institutional strengthening to be credible for the long term when we found convincing evidence that there is strong domestic policy commitment, the institution is generally functioning well, and financing is sustainable and not donor-driven. Out of ten case studies, we found only one intervention, on teacher training degrees, that contributed to a strong institution with sustained financing at scale beyond UK aid contributions. DFID’s results in the areas of mental health and livelihoods were also promising to become sustainable at this level. In the remaining seven cases DFID had built some elements of institutional capacity, and has made progress towards these elements being sustainable in three of these cases, but we did not find that the institutions were strong enough to continue functioning at improved levels in the long term.

In the social sectors where DFID assisted many of the poorest and most vulnerable Ghanaians over the review period, it is not clear that the key results that DFID delivered will be sustained as the department winds down its direct bilateral financial support, especially considering that the government of Ghana is still emerging from its macro-fiscal crisis and continues to have a highly constrained financial and delivery capacity. We also found that DFID’s approach to output results is not conducive to sustainable outcomes or institution building: in order to reach a larger number of the most vulnerable directly with services, DFID developed delivery capacity outside of the state in some of its key social programmes. This delivered good results but was at the cost of developing core state systems and institutions for the sustainable delivery of services to Ghana’s citizens.

Recent bilateral aid programming in the governance sector – especially on anti-corruption and increasing tax revenue – is built on best practice for achieving sustained outcomes, including on working with political awareness, finding traction with units or individuals with a shared commitment to solving specific problems or better governance, and working adaptively by learning lessons on what works along the way. This approach is more likely to bear fruit than top-down system-wide technocratic reforms, and we already see signs that the institutional strengthening model used in the governance sector shows early promise.

However, this emerging model has not been applied across the portfolio, and we also found many examples of poorly thought-through institutional strengthening interventions that created unsustainable structures, or were overly focused on changing rules, procedures and guidelines and delivering training without also ensuring that practices change.

DFID made important contributions to Ghana’s macroeconomic management capability and stabilisation after the 2014 macroeconomic crisis, through dialogue with the government of Ghana, technical assistance to the Bank of Ghana, and supporting the work by the IMF on macro-fiscal stabilisation and by the IMF and the World Bank on public finance management. As the UK’s bilateral aid spending continues to reduce, this type of support will be crucial to help ensure that Ghana sustains its development gains.

Since we conclude that there is a clear risk that key results delivered by UK aid between 2011 and 2019 will not be sustained, we have given an amber-red score for the sustainability of the UK aid portfolio in Ghana.

Recommendations

We offer the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1

In transition contexts, DFID should ensure that the pace of ending the bilateral financing of service delivery in areas of continuing social need must be grounded in a realistic assessment of whether the gap left will be filled.

Recommendation 2

DFID should require portfolio-level development outcome objectives and results frameworks for its country programmes.

Recommendation 3

DFID Ghana should learn from its own successes and failures when designing and delivering its systems strengthening support and technical assistance.

Recommendation 4

In transition contexts, DFID country offices, in coordination with the multilateral policy leads, should increasingly work to influence the department’s country multilateral partners on issues of strategic importance.

Recommendation 5

In order to strengthen the relevance of its aid programming and accountability to the people expected to benefit, DFID should include information on citizen needs and preferences, especially for the most vulnerable, as a systematic requirement for portfolio and programme design and management.

Recommendation 6

The government should provide clear guidance on how UK aid resources should be used in implementing mutual prosperity objectives to minimise risks and maximise opportunities for development.

Introduction

After more than two decades of continuous economic growth, Ghana achieved the status of lower-middle-income country in 2011. As Ghana’s economy transforms, the country’s long-standing development partnership with the UK is also changing. The UK has invested about £2.8 billion in bilateral aid in Ghana over the past two decades. Since 2011, the UK’s aid portfolio has been reoriented towards helping Ghana overcome its economic and governance challenges and mobilising the resources to finance its own development. At the same time, the UK has continued to finance education, health and social protection programmes in Ghana, but with less funding.

This review assesses the relevance, effectiveness and sustainability of all UK official development assistance (ODA) flows to Ghana relative to the UK’s following objectives:

  • Transforming Ghana’s economy: contributing to inclusive growth in Ghana so that the benefits from a growing economy are shared widely among the population.
  • Leaving no one behind: tackling extreme poverty and vulnerability in Ghana, including through addressing gender disparities.
  • Strengthening Ghanaian institutions: supporting Ghana in developing competent and sustainable institutions.
  • Transitioning the UK/Ghana partnership: managing transition away from a traditional aid relationship in a manner that safeguards past development gains.

Our review covers almost all UK ODA to Ghana from 2011 to 2019. It includes almost all bilateral aid from all UK government departments as well as the UK’s imputed share of multilateral aid to Ghana.

The review is built around the evaluation criteria of relevance, effectiveness and sustainability. It addresses the following questions and sub-questions:

Table 1: Our review questions

Methodology

Our review assessed the contribution of UK aid-financed interventions to the UK government’s aid objectives in Ghana. We organised our work into three themes in alignment with the main UK aid objectives: 1) governance and anti-corruption, 2) human development, and 3) inclusive growth and private sector development. We assessed secondary evidence on the performance of UK aid flows in Ghana and supplemented this with primary evidence for validation and gap-filling. This was done through the following methodological elements:

Strategy review: We analysed strategies and policies at the global, regional, country and thematic/sector level from relevant UK government departments, predominantly the Department for International Development (DFID).

Literature review: We reviewed selected literature on key issues in the Ghana and UK aid context. This included literature on Ghana’s political economy and socio-economic development, common challenges in oil and gas revenue governance and management in sub-Saharan Africa, and aid partnerships in transition contexts. The literature review is available on the ICAI website.

Programming review of UK aid: We mapped bilateral and multilateral UK aid flows and results, did a rapid desk review of all bilateral and key multilateral programmes in the UK aid sectors, and undertook ten in-depth case studies of programme areas supported by UK aid, focusing on the bilateral channels but also taking into account the multilateral channel (see Table 2 below for a list of the ten case studies).

Stakeholder consultation: We consulted Ghana government informants across a range of central government and regional government offices, Ghana civil society organisations, media representatives, academics, professional associations and bodies, businesses and business representatives. We also consulted UK government officials in London and Ghana, members of a civil society organisation representing the African diaspora focusing on Africa’s development, and UK development nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) with activities in Ghana.

Citizen consultation: We consulted citizens of Ghana who should have either directly or generally benefited from UK aid. Consultations reached over 800 citizens through a variety of forums (see Figure 1) in eight districts of two regions where UK aid delivered programmes. These forums included town hall meetings, focus group discussions and informal conversations with individual citizens using public services that UK aid supported, interviews with small business owners and market traders, and with young women who had been supported by UK aid to continue their schooling.

Figure 1: Citizen consultation methods

Full details of the methodology and sampling approach are provided in the Approach Paper for the review.

Table 2: List of case studies

Background

Country context

Ghana is a stable democracy. Since the return to democracy in 1992, its citizens have voted out the incumbent government three times in contested but peaceful and free elections. Ghana has a vibrant civil society and scores above average on international governance assessments of middle-income countries. Ghana is currently ranked sixth out of 54 African states on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. In 2017, Ghana ranked second of all African countries on the Reporters without Borders media freedom index.

Ghana is a country in economic and social transition. After more than two decades of continuous economic growth (Figure 2), Ghana has gone from relative poverty to become one of West Africa’s wealthiest countries. It was the first sub-Saharan African country to meet the Millennium Development Goal to halve extreme poverty. By 2015, it also halved the number of hungry people and the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. It achieved universal primary education and gender parity in primary education, reduced HIV prevalence, and increased access to information and communications technology.

Figure 2: Ghana Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 2000 to 2017

While the GDP growth rate has fluctuated after 2006, Ghana has experienced continuous growth since 2000 (Figure 3). Between 2000 and 2010, the economy almost doubled in size in real terms. In 2010, a technical adjustment to Ghana’s economic statistics resulted in an overnight promotion to one of the top ten economies in Africa by size. The World Bank officially classified it as a lower-middle-income country on 1 July 2011. On the adjusted data, Ghana arguably already achieved this status a few years earlier (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Ghana Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annual growth rate 2000 to 2017

Ghana’s oil discovery in 2007 is credited with fuelling the country’s growth spurt in 2011–12. At peak production, oil from known reserves currently exploited could contribute just over 9% of GDP and about 30% of the government’s revenue. The government of Ghana recently announced the discovery of a further one billion barrels of reserves, expecting production to almost double by 2025. The windfall from the oil and gas sector could therefore make a substantial contribution to Ghana’s socio-economic transformation, if managed well.

Figure 4: Change in Ghana’s gross national income per capita 2000 to 2018

 

Ghana’s economy, however, has not diversified. Exports are centred on commodities (cacao, gold and, recently, oil). Structural change has occurred, in so far as services replaced agriculture as the largest sector employing the most people. But the structural changes as yet do not equal a transformational shift. This makes the economy vulnerable to domestic and external price and exchange rate shocks.

Macroeconomic instability continues to pose a high risk to Ghana’s continued growth and development. From 2012 Ghana’s macroeconomic conditions started deteriorating, brought about by a large public sector wage bill, costly energy subsidies, severe power shortages and worsening terms of trade. Frequent overspending (more pronounced in election years), low tax effort and public financial management weaknesses have undermined the public finances, ratcheted up public debt and largely consumed the fiscal buffer that had resulted from the 2006 Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

By 2014, large fiscal and current account deficits, high and expensive public debt, high inflation and a sharp depreciation of the currency were throttling the economy, and growth slowed rapidly. In April 2015, a three-year IMF Extended Credit Facility of about $916 million was approved, assisting economic recovery, but economic growth between 2014 and 2017 was considerably slower than before 2013.

As a result, poverty reduction ground almost to a halt. About 400,000 more people were poor in 2016–17 than in 2013–14, and 200,000 more were extremely poor. In total, 6.8 million people are poor in Ghana. Among them about 2.4 million people, the extreme poor, are unable to afford the daily energy requirement to sustain themselves. Most of the poor and extremely poor live in the rural north and north-east of Ghana. Here poverty and extreme poverty worsened significantly between 2013–14 and 2016–17, as shown in Figure 5 below. The depth of poverty – how far people live below the poverty line on average – also increased in these regions.

Figure 5: Regional change in and distribution of poverty in Ghana

In the northern regions of Ghana poverty worsened between 2012–13 and 2016–17. These regions had the highest proportion of the population living in poverty in 2016–17.

Access to quality services is highly unequal between regions. In the Northern region, one fifth of children aged 13 to 15 have never had formal education – four times the national average. Fewer than half of the women and children in the region accessed adequate basic maternal and child health services in 2016, and the region has only four community health care centres for every 1,000 square kilometres, compared to a national average of 23.

Gender disparities persist. While girls’ enrolment in primary and junior high school education was on a par with or better than boys’ enrolment by 2011, this was due to shifts in the wealthier south and not true for the poorest girls or girls in northern Ghana. Despite gender parity in senior high school enrolment, significantly fewer female students than male students qualified for tertiary or higher education in all regions, and especially in the north. Women have lower labour market participation and higher unemployment levels than men.

People with disabilities are also disproportionately excluded. Far fewer children with disabilities are registered in the education system than the reported prevalence rate, and their attendance rate is significantly lower. In 2015, about one in ten people who were not in the labour force said it was because they were disabled, a much higher proportion than people with disabilities in the population overall.

Ghana’s public sector institutions are weak and ineffective, despite large donor-funded reform programmes during the past three decades. Major weaknesses in the delivery of public services include limited government capacity to formulate and implement policies, poor support from central agencies and weak coordination between sector institutions. A key factor explaining the weakness of Ghana’s institutions is the highly competitive partisan political environment. Each time political power changes hands, a large turnover in the bureaucracy follows. This partisan approach to the hiring and firing of high-level civil servants is made worse by a lack of meritocratic principles in the public service sector and widespread corruption. Furthermore, elections are fought on short-term but expensive promises of infrastructure projects, utility price reductions and abolishing fees. In this environment, policy discontinuity is the norm, undermining reform initiatives with a time horizon longer than the election cycle.

Corruption in Ghana worsened between 2008 and 2017, as measured by the Worldwide Governance Indicators. Citizens also perceive corruption to be worsening, and more reported having to pay bribes now than they did a few years ago. Most fear retaliation if they report corruption.

Ghana’s changing relationship with aid

Since taking office in 2017, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has been vocal about moving the country ‘beyond aid’. The government released its Ghana Beyond Aid Charter and Strategy in April 2019. The Charter is not ‘anti-aid’. In the words of the Chair of the Ghana Beyond Aid Committee, the aim is to “set our development priorities right so that our creative energies and resources, including aid, can all be deployed to fast track our economic transition from an under-developed country to a confident and self-reliant nation”. As yet, the strategy is aspirational, with limited policy and programmatic detail.


“We can, and should, build … a Ghana where everyone has access to education, training, and productive employment; a Ghana where no one goes hungry and everyone has access to the necessities of life including good health care, water, sanitation, and decent housing in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, we can, and should, build a Ghana that is prosperous enough to stand on its own two feet; a Ghana that is beyond dependence on the charity of others to cater for the needs of its people, but instead engages with other countries competitively through trade and investments and through political cooperation for enhanced regional and global peace and security.”

President Nana Akufo-Addo
Foreword to the Ghana Beyond Aid Charter and Strategy Document, Government of Ghana, April 2019. p.5

Many donors, including DFID, reduced their ODA portfolios after Ghana graduated to lower-middle-income status in 2011. In the five years between 2013 and 2017, official development partners committed a quarter less ODA than the previous five-year average (see Figure 6), making development assistance less prominent in Ghana’s economy.

Figure 6: Annual average Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) commitments to Ghana

The profile of aid has changed. Support is now more project-based, while multi-sector and programmatic aid – particularly budget support – has shrunk significantly. More aid flows through non-government channels, such as multilateral organisations, private sector organisations and NGOs, civil society, educational institutions and think tanks (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: Share of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) by channel to Ghana

The way aid cooperation is managed has changed. The formal multi-donor partnership structures that characterised aid delivery at the height of commitment to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness have largely disappeared in Ghana, as in other countries. The shift was triggered by the disbanding of the multi-donor budget support platform in 2014. Sector working groups still exist, but many fell into disuse or became donor coordination groups.

UK aid in Ghana

The UK committed £2.8 billion in bilateral aid to Ghana between 1998 and 2017, almost 70% of it spent in the first decade. Of the £2.8 billion, 43% was for debt relief or general budget support. Of the remainder, about three quarters went to the social sectors – mainly education in the first decade, then shifting to health in the second decade. By 2011, UK aid had moved out of the transport and water and sanitation sectors and significantly cut support for agriculture, while increasing spending on civil society and private sector development.

UK aid objectives and strategies in Ghana since 2011

In 2011, at the start of the review period, DFID saw Ghana’s growing inequality, gender disparities, poor social and health outcomes, governance challenges and structural economic constraints as the central barriers to the country’s transition.


“The next few years will be crucial for Ghana, offering an opportunity to transform the country’s development, firmly establishing its middle-income status and delivering significantly better health, education and wealth creation outcomes. To achieve this Ghana will need to tackle a set of challenges: over six million people live below the national poverty line; progress against a number of the Millennium Development Goals is disappointing; there are major regional inequalities, with the North of the country suffering significantly higher levels of poverty than elsewhere; women and girls perform worse across all the main social indicators; educational attainment is poor; oil is potentially a blessing, but it could also prove to be a curse; businesses are often too small, unproductive and lacking in innovation; domestic revenue collection is low; macroeconomic stability remains at risk; and Ghana needs to continue to build on its strong electoral track record, especially now that oil has raised the stakes.”

Operational Plan 2011–2015, DFID Ghana, 2012, updated annually.

Two plans frame the DFID response to these challenges in our review period: the 2011–2015 DFID Operational Plan and the DFID Business Plan 2016–17 to 2019–20. DFID’s objectives for Ghana over the period can be summarised as follows:

  • Strengthen democratic governance and the ability of Ghanaians to make demands of their government and hold it to account, strengthen domestic revenue mobilisation and the management of natural resource revenues, and help Ghana tackle corruption.
  • Promoting prosperity: improve the national investment climate and business environment, diversify the economy and develop domestic markets, and support entrepreneurship in the Northern region.
  • Improving human development outcomes and helping the most vulnerable so that no one is left behind: improve selected human development outcomes for Ghanaians in education and health, and improve and expand the safety net for the very poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

In 2016, a cross-cutting objective was added to strengthen the resilience of poor communities to better withstand the impact of climate change, economic shocks and pandemic disease.

UK aid’s interventions in Ghana were shaped by global UK aid objectives and policy. The 2011 Bilateral Aid Review, followed by the 2016 Bilateral Development Review and an internal DFID poverty allocation model resulted in Ghana becoming less of a priority for support, as DFID moved its focus to poorer and fragile states. Over the period, successive DFID secretaries of state expressed the desire to move away from aid financing the service delivery costs where countries can “step up and take responsibility for investing in their own people”. The 2015 UK aid strategy made UK national interest a co-determinant of UK aid spending and committed the government to increase the share of the UK aid budget spent by departments other than DFID. These departments have tended to focus on countries that are richer than Ghana. In 2018 the Fusion Doctrine, part of the National Security Capability Review, held that all policy levers, including aid, should be available to secure the UK government’s economic, security and influence goals, while the cross-government Africa Strategy emphasised mutually beneficial partnerships driving a strong focus on inclusive growth, trade and investment in Ghana. The UK’s strategic approach to Africa and the Fusion Doctrine are continuations of the policy directions for UK aid already put forward in the 2016 Bilateral Development Review.

With this shift, UK government departments other than DFID began to spend ODA in Ghana. Since 2015, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have all launched ODA programmes in the country. A formal cross-government strategy for UK aid in Ghana did not, however, exist until 2018, when the UK-Ghana Prosperity Strategy was developed. This set objectives for an integrated UK offer on economic partnership across diplomatic, trade, investment and development engagement and financing instruments, including UK aid. It did not cover all UK aid flows to Ghana.

DFID has told us that its approach to the partnership with Ghana was shaped by the transition context and these global UK aid funding and policy shifts. As the bilateral country office spend for Ghana reduced, the intent was that the bilateral focus should shift away from directly financing the cost of service delivery to systems strengthening – especially strengthening Ghana’s ability to generate and mobilise its own resources. In this context, the emphasis increased on centrally managed programmes and the multilateral share, as Ghana moved to self-financing its development. At the same time, the desire was to maintain support for the most vulnerable, in keeping with the leave no one behind objective of the country plans.

Changing profile of UK aid to Ghana 2011–2019

UK bilateral aid to Ghana reduced between 2011 and 2019. Over the five years to 2017, bilateral UK aid was on average half of what had been provided over the previous five-year period. There have also been changes in the composition of aid. Bilateral aid through DFID Ghana shifted from budget support to bilateral projects, with increasing investment in livelihoods and economic development and slowing investment in health and education (see Figure 8 below).

Figure 8: Composition of UK aid spend in Ghana

The UK’s main aid contribution to Ghana towards the end of the period was through multilateral channels, estimated at 66% of the total in 2017 compared to 45% in 2011. There was a 47% growth in UK multilateral aid spending between 2011 and 2017 (resulting in overall growth despite a reduction in bilateral aid), mainly due to the large IMF credit facility extended to Ghana in 2015. If the IMF credit facility is not taken into account, UK multilateral aid in Ghana would have been less than half of its total aid spending between 2011 and 2017.

Figure 9: Multilateral share of UK imputed spend 2011–2017

UK aid programmes in Ghana

Between 2011 and 2019, UK aid funded more than 60 individual programmes and projects in Ghana. Some were initiated before the 2011 plan. Others had only just begun or were still in the pipeline during our review period. Figure 10 below sets out the key bilateral programmes of UK aid that were active in the period (by objective and programming area). A timeline juxtaposing programme start dates with key Ghana and DFID events follows.

Figure 10: UK aid to Ghana: programming areas, objectives and timeline

 

Findings

This section presents the findings of our review, covering the relevance, effectiveness and sustainability of UK aid to Ghana. Under relevance we explore how the UK aid portfolio relates to Ghana’s development challenges and the priorities of the UK government. In the effectiveness section we assess how well programmes in the UK aid portfolio have contributed to the achievement of UK aid objectives in Ghana, and the effectiveness of UK aid partnerships. Finally, under sustainability, we look at whether UK aid has been successful in strengthening sustainable Ghanaian institutions and protecting past development gains against setbacks and reversals.

Relevance: How well has the UK aid portfolio responded to Ghana’s development needs and the UK’s strategic objectives?

Addressing Ghana’s governance challenges

The UK aid portfolio included strategic choices that responded well to Ghana’s governance challenges and its need to self-finance its development

After conducting diagnostic work on governance in 2014, DFID shifted its governance portfolio in Ghana from supporting budget and expenditure management to three new issues where it believed it could make a bigger difference: 1) anti-corruption, 2) tax policy and administration, and 3) oil and gas revenue management.

Tackling corruption

Our literature review, programme review, and interviews with representatives of the Ghanaian government, other donors and Ghanaian civil society organisations (CSOs) and think tanks, suggest that the strategic shift towards anti-corruption was a justified decision. Corruption is a key impediment to Ghana’s development and is embedded in its political economy. “Fighting corruption and economic crimes” is a major priority in the government of Ghana’s Coordinated Programmes for 2010–2016 and 2017–2024. Our consultations with citizens also highlighted the scourge of corruption, echoing Afrobarometer surveys showing more respondents reporting personal experiences of corruption over time, and fewer believing that public service providers of different kinds were not corrupt.

DFID’s anti-corruption programme is an agile, thoughtful response to Ghana’s corruption challenge. By 2014, when the anti-corruption programme started, Ghana had established a legal framework and institutions to address corruption and financial crimes. However, no major cases had been successfully prosecuted. One reason was that the technical capacities of Ghana’s anti-corruption institutions were too weak to take on what DFID’s diagnostic work described as “an operating environment with minimal accountability” where “political and social barriers” blocked effective action.


“As a result of corruption people are suffering. Roads are not well constructed because of corruption.”

Karaga transect walk

“The police and other civil and public servants also engage in petty corruption when they take advantage of the system by insisting on some payments that end up in their pockets.”

Youth Focus Group Discussion, Mion

In response, DFID’s Strengthening Actions Against Corruption (STAAC) programme embedded interventions in continuous political economy analysis, so that it could respond nimbly and seize opportunities for progress when and where these opened up. The programme targeted the entire anti-corruption chain (detection, investigation, prosecution and remedial action). This had the potential to address not only the weak capacity in individual institutions, but also weak links between them, creating pressure between institutions for cases to progress. The programme was designed to work simultaneously with government on technical state capacities and with civil society and the media to create pressure on the state to address corruption. It also supported Ghana’s participation in global anti-corruption networks and initiatives.


“A businessman pays a lot of bribes or unapproved fees.”

Mion town hall meeting

Mobilising domestic resources

DFID’s support to boost domestic tax collection and manage oil and gas revenues is relevant to Ghana’s Beyond Aid strategy, which lists higher public resource mobilisation as one of ten priority reforms. DFID’s diagnostic work identified that the oil and gas sector can address two of the binding constraints on growth (cost of energy, access to finance and macroeconomic stability) through its impact on government finances, foreign exchange earnings and energy generation. Based on this diagnostic, DFID designed its Ghana Oil and Gas for Inclusive Growth programme to provide technical support to the government of Ghana, while also working with civil society to strengthen its ability to hold the government to account on how the oil and gas windfall is spent.

The importance of channelling some of this windfall into interventions – such as accelerated investment in economic infrastructure – that can put Ghana on a new growth path is widely appreciated and has been highlighted by Ghana’s government, both in strategy documents and by its leadership.

Strengthening civil society

Our literature review, roundtable discussions and key informant interviews with Ghanaian stakeholders in the state, business and civil society sectors all confirmed that the continued activism of civil society in Ghana is necessary to break political economy constraints on the country’s growth and development. Roundtable discussions confirmed that Ghanaian CSOs see the UK as a long-standing, trusted partner.

The design of DFID CSO programming responds well to issues raised in the 2013 ICAI review of DFID’s empowerment and accountability programming in Ghana and Malawi. These were:

  • Coherence in CSO engagement with the state: DFID’s CSO support programme (STAR Ghana II), its oil and gas programme and its anti-corruption programme (STAAC) all seek to avoid fragmentation by convening CSOs on common platforms to engage the state on key issues (see Box 4).
  • Funding: STAR Ghana II set up the STAR Ghana Foundation, which is an effort to address CSO funding challenges in the context of declining donor funding to Ghana. While it remains to be seen whether the Foundation will be able to raise and channel significant funding to civil society in Ghana, the effort to establish a sustainable model is relevant to the country’s transformation.
  • Capacity shortfalls: STAR Ghana I and II both recognised that funding civil society action should be combined with building the capacity of organisations to manage themselves better.

Responding to the needs of the most vulnerable in Ghana

DFID’s social sector programming reflects the concerns of the poor and targets population groups at risk of being left behind

Health and education are important concerns for the poor in Ghana

In two surveys conducted in our review period, Ghanaian respondents placed health and education, together with employment and jobs, among the top ten most important problems facing Ghana (see Figure 11 below). In the 2015 My World Survey, respondents from rural areas (where over 90% of Ghana’s poor live) selected health care most often out of 18 possible development priorities, and education third most often. In the 2017 Afrobarometer survey, over 30% of respondents (from across the country) mentioned education when asked what the most important problems facing the country were, while 18% raised health.

Figure 11: Citizens’ concerns and priorities

Most important problems in country identified by citizens*

Citizens’ development priorities**

In our own consultations, citizens – especially the poor and those from remote districts – also identified education and health services as important concerns. Figure 12 lists the main development themes raised by the participants in our own citizen consultations.

Figure 12: Top issues raised by citizens in our review consultation

Citizens especially raised the quality of health and education services, drawing our attention to issues such as the lack of drugs at health facilities and furniture in schools, and the poor quality of teaching.


“The teachers in most of the public schools are not good. They can’t even speak English with the children because when the children come home and you speak English with them, they respond in the local dialect. Therefore, the children tend to be poor academically and despite spending years in school they come home with very poor results that can’t be of any help.”

Nzema East town hall meeting

“Members of this community are registered on health insurance… however, now when they go to the clinic there are no drugs.”

West Mamprusi focus group discussion

“There are no school buildings for the community.”

“A new school is being constructed. There are no teacher quarters.”

“There used to be a community health compound in my community but now it has been closed down due to low patronage. There were no drugs there and the little drugs they had had all expired.”

Participants in radio phone-in

UK aid’s support to community health care services, health commodities, health financing, education access for girls and out-of-school children, and teacher pre-service training reflects a focus on addressing some of the priorities identified by citizens, such as access to health and education services, markets and jobs, and better dialogue between citizens and authorities.

UK aid choices in Ghana show commitment to the principle of leaving no one behind

In recent years, poverty reduction in Ghana has stagnated, inequality has grown and regional disparities have widened (see Figure 5), showing a growing risk that some communities will be left behind as the country transforms, which in turn will threaten the transformation itself. Our analysis of programming in the health, education and social protection sectors shows a consistent commitment to the principle of leaving no one behind. DFID’s support to service delivery between 2011 and 2019 was targeted at vulnerable groups, the poorest households and lagging regions. Altogether 92% of bilateral UK aid expenditure in the social sectors in Ghana was targeted in full or through substantial components at groups who are (at risk of being) left behind (see Table 3).

DFID’s 2011-2015 Operational Plan made an explicit commitment to “two cross-cutting priorities: girls and women, and poverty reduction and growth in the North”. The social sector programmes were strongly aligned with these commitments. In addition, some programmes in the economic sector – the DFID market development programme and AgDevCo’s programmes in the north – were also implemented in a lagging region and aimed at the poor and vulnerable.

Table 3: Targeting of social programmes at the poor and vulnerable

However, crucial decisions on reducing aid in the social sectors were made without a sound analysis of the implications for service delivery

The average annual value of DFID Ghana’s aid to the social sector declined by 42% from the period 2011–12 to 2013–14 to the period 2016–17 to 2018–19 (see Figure 8 above). The decline in DFID Ghana’s aid was driven by a series of top-down portfolio and bottom-up programming decisions aligned to the DFID Business Plan 2016–17 to 2019–20. Reducing aid for service delivery – the financing of the direct cost of services themselves – represents a significant proportion of the reduction.

DFID Ghana noted that lower social sector spending from its country budget had been offset by increases in spending through centrally managed programmes. We were unable to ascertain the degree to which this occurred, as comparable time-series data for centrally managed programmes over the same period is not available. However, while increased spending through centrally managed programmes contributes to the overall volume of UK bilateral aid to Ghana, and may be complementary to DFID Ghana programmes, these programmes do not in and of themselves counter the implications of phasing out DFID Ghana programmes which financed service delivery.

The Business Plan was explicit that DFID Ghana’s financing of service delivery in the social sectors would be significantly reduced. This was on the basis that Ghana should be in a position to finance service delivery out of its own resources in the context of DFID’s approach to transition in Ghana. Through our interviews we heard that DFID Ghana’s country budget was reduced in response to the following factors: 1) pressing UK aid priorities elsewhere including a shift in UK aid policy towards poorer and fragile states, 2) Ghana’s lower-middle-income country status, and 3) the government of Ghana’s beyond aid vision. Ghana’s macroeconomic crisis was viewed as a temporary setback and the expectation was that the country would return quickly to rapid growth. Overall, the view was that Ghana was a country in transition, and therefore the UK-Ghana partnership was transitioning too. Downgrading the DFID Ghana office and reducing its staff in the 2016–17 period are also illustrative of this dynamic.

DFID’s Business Plan 2016–17 to 2019–20 stated that the reduced support for direct service delivery would be accompanied by “a corresponding increase in our strategic support to the systems and policies that underpin human development outcomes”. The plan noted that reducing direct service delivery would free up DFID Ghana’s human resources for policy advocacy and better coordination of centrally managed programmes.

We conducted six case studies of social sector programmes in Ghana. Of the six, five provided aid for service delivery. These programmes were affected differently by the decision to reduce this form of aid. However, we found no convincing evidence that the decisions on where aid for service delivery should be stopped and where it should continue were based on analysis of needs, sustainability of the services delivered, or capacities built. Initial programme planning documents made no reference to Ghana’s macro-fiscal crisis at the time when aid to service delivery was stopped, and did not provide an analysis of the Ghanaian government’s financial capacity to sustain services over the short-to-medium term.

Instead, we found that the programme documents were inconsistent in their focus on leaving no one behind when justifying whether to stop or continue financing services in specific projects:

  • In two cases – support for mental health services and support for the livelihoods social safety net programme – aid was expected to continue in a next programming phase, through a new Leave No One Behind programme. The business case argues for continuing this support due to the importance of leaving no one behind in the Ghana Beyond Aid context, which, it was felt, places an overly strong emphasis on economic growth.
  • Yet, in another programme document, DFID justifies phasing out financial support for complementary basic education (supporting out-of-school children to access schooling), by arguing that ending this funding would ‘support’ Ghana’s self-reliance in leaving no one behind and taking responsibility for investing in its own people in the Beyond Aid context.
  • In the decisions to end bilateral financing of community health services and girls’ scholarships in northern Ghana, no mention is made of DFID’s leave no one behind objectives one way or another. Instead, the concept note for the follow-up technical assistance programme for the social sectors uses the changing UK development offer and Ghana Beyond Aid as the rationale for opting for technical assistance rather than the financing of services.

Citizen consultation is not a systematic part of programme design, monitoring or evaluation

Participation by, inclusion of and accountability to citizens in development processes are widely recognised principles of good development practice. Implementing these principles requires that the priorities, needs and experiences of the citizens should be part of programme design, monitoring and evaluation, especially when UK programmes deliver direct services to citizens. This is not just about broad programming choices and their alignment with what citizens prioritise, but about a careful approach to gain knowledge on what people need and want, and how they react to interventions.

Only some UK aid programmes in Ghana used extensive and structured citizen consultation as part of programme design or implementation. For example, as Table 4 below shows, only four out of seven programmes among our ten case studies that had direct engagement components conducted citizen consultations. In the two cases where the government of Ghana was solely responsible for delivering the programme, consultation was built into programme design.

Table 4: Consultation with citizens

Consultation components can also be useful when programmes only affect citizens indirectly, for example when they have an impact on policies that affect citizens or when citizen experiences are relevant to programming choice. This was the case in the anti-corruption programme in Table 4, which surveyed citizen experiences on petty corruption despite the programme interventions not including direct citizen services.

Our interviews and programme documentation review indicate that an assessment of whether consultation is needed in programme design and implementation, and the design of such consultation methods, was not a systematic part of the operating requirements for UK aid in Ghana. Rather, it depended on the interests and beliefs of the senior responsible officer or service provider whether it was done.

Positioning the UK to support Ghana’s economic development

UK aid support for private sector development reflects the importance of economic diversification, inclusive growth and job creation for Ghana

Our literature and strategy reviews show that the transformation of Ghana’s economy from relying on the export of raw materials to being based on manufacturing and high-value services that deliver quality jobs is a central priority for the country’s government. Creating jobs is also a priority for Ghana’s citizens. In 2017, well over 40% of respondents to the Afrobarometer survey mentioned jobs when asked about the three most important problems facing the economy. The lack of jobs and livelihoods, especially for young people, were also raised in our own consultations with citizens. In the Northern region, West Mamprusi community members expressed concern that many young people were not working. Although agriculture was the main occupation in the community, young people did not want to work in that sector.

Secondary and interview evidence identifies several barriers to inclusive growth: the business environment and the cost of doing business (especially the cost of energy and finance), firm capability and capacity, human capital, macroeconomic instability and vulnerability to shocks. In response, DFID’s private sector development portfolio includes interventions to improve the business environment, working with Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, metropolitan areas and the commercial courts. It has also supported the Ministry of Trade and Industry on industrial policy, and built capacity in small and medium enterprises.

In the last few years, DFID has significantly increased its market development activities in neglected parts of the country, through Market Development in Northern Ghana (MADE) and AgDevCo’s investments in emerging agriculture firms in northern Ghana to create value chains for poor producers. This reflects our literature review findings and interview evidence, as well as DFID’s diagnostic that a growing urban-rural and regional economic divide is a barrier to inclusive development.

Central programming to support regional food markets, and a forthcoming programme evolved from MADE to develop the agriculture sector in the north, are aligned to DFID’s diagnostic finding and our literature review findings that the agricultural sector presents a key entry point for economic transformation and provides opportunities for regional trade.

The UK’s broad cross-departmental approach to Ghana’s economic development was a coherent and coordinated response to the government of Ghana’s beyond aid priorities

The government of Ghana has clearly expressed that it wants its partnerships to transition over time from aid to trade and strategic economic cooperation. It has asked that development partners help raise additional funds for development through market-based transactions and leveraging private capital.

Since 2018 the UK government, through the Economic Development Investment and Trade (EDIT) working group and the UK-Ghana Prosperity Strategy, has coordinated a broad range of instruments from different UK departments and bilateral and multilateral funds to support Ghana. The ambition is for shared learning, leveraging interventions and presenting a coherent narrative about the UK offering to Ghana. Key participating departments and funds are DFID, the FCO, the Department for International Trade, CDC (the UK’s development finance institution), the Private Infrastructure Development Group and UK Export Finance (UKEF).

The ambition of the EDIT working group is to coordinate all UK official flows better in the interests of the mutual prosperity of Ghana and the UK. This carries risks for UK development assistance (see the next finding) but may also allow the UK to use its assets more effectively in leveraging private capital for development. The initiative supports the UK-Ghana Business Council, which brings the two governments together to reduce barriers to trade and investment and create jobs. In 2018, UK aid funded a UK-Ghana investment summit, attached to the first meeting of the business council. The council and summit were frequently mentioned to us by Ghanaian government ministers as a prime example of how the UK is a leading development partner in forging a new relationship with Ghana.

Closer cooperation between UK trade, investment and aid instruments provides an opportunity to improve the development impact of other flows, as long as there is attention to the risks for development objectives

DFID Ghana emphasised that tensions can easily arise between development and commercial interests in a coordinated UK offer to Ghana. For example, getting a good deal for UK companies from one side of the UK government and promoting reducing tax exemptions on the other, or looking for single-source contracting of UK businesses and promoting open procurement processes. Box 6 below provides examples of live tensions that were highlighted in our discussions in Ghana.

We concur with DFID Ghana that engagement with other UK government agencies and funds working in Ghana through the EDIT working group gave it the opportunity to manage such risks in the interest of development outcomes. Through EDIT, it was able to engage institutions such as UKEF better on the development impact of their activities. DFID Ghana told us that all ODA was spent fully in line with OECD DAC guidelines and with the UK’s development objectives in Ghana, and that it fed all UKEF decisions through HM Treasury to check if they met sustainable lending principles.

We observed, however, that managing ODA risks appropriately depends heavily on leadership in the country office, and the technical capacities and views of individuals. In the absence of clear guidance on what the limits are for coordinating aid with non-aid official flows and actions, these risks will remain live – a possibility we have already raised in our information note on the use of UK aid to enhance mutual prosperity.

Coherence across the UK aid portfolio

The UK aid portfolio often works in a coherent way within sectors and across programmes

UK aid programming in Ghana is often complementary within and across areas, supporting interventions at multiple levels. For instance, we found that DFID Ghana and centrally managed programmes jointly supported private sector development programmes at the macro level (programmes working on investment climate and financing), meso level (programmes on market functions) and micro level (enterprise-level and economic inclusion programmes). The Ministry of Trade and Industry, private sector associations and champions of industry stressed the need for addressing challenges at all three levels.

We found good examples where DFID has harnessed central and country bilateral programmes in a strategically coherent way towards UK aid objectives (see Box 7 below), in line with DFID Ghana’s ambition to improve programming coherence in the 2016–17 to 2019–20 plan period. There are, however, also examples of global-level programmes that operate in Ghana without such coherence. An example is the UK Department of Health and Social Care’s Fleming Fund anti-microbial resistance work in Ghana, one of the first countries in which the Fund rolled out activities. While the issue is undoubtedly globally important, it was not clear to us that it was an appropriate strategic choice for Ghana, given that the DFID Ghana health programme is relatively small and shrinking, and that Ghana still has major basic challenges in its health system. We were not able to find evidence through our interviews to support DFID’s confidence that it is or should be a priority for Ghana.

Conclusion on relevance

The UK aid portfolio included strategic choices that responded well to Ghana’s governance challenges and its need to diversify and grow its economy and self-finance its development. A high proportion of DFID’s programming, especially in the social sector, targeted the needs and priorities of poor people and aligned with the UK’s gender and leave no one behind agendas. A key concern, however, is that crucial decisions on the pace of reducing the financing of service delivery in the social sector were not supported by a comprehensive analysis of the consequences to service delivery. DFID’s planning, programming and monitoring approaches gave it insufficient insight on the needs, priorities and experiences of the poor in Ghana.

The UK’s ability to deliver a transformative impact in Ghana has improved over the period. DFID is well positioned as a strategic partner for Ghanaian government agencies. UK aid contributes to a coherent offer to widen the UK partnership with Ghana from development to trade and strategic economic cooperation. DFID Ghana has taken concrete steps to tackle risks that may arise from this coordination, although risk management relies too heavily on the interest and expertise of individuals rather than formal processes.

Overall, we were not convinced by how DFID justified reductions in the financing of social service delivery, and we found that more should be done to ensure that the views of beneficiaries are integrated in the design, implementation and monitoring of interventions. That said, the UK aid portfolio has responded well in many respects to Ghana’s development needs over the period and has been well aligned to UK aid objectives. We therefore award a green-amber score.


Effectiveness: How effective has UK aid been in achieving its strategic objectives in Ghana?

Effectiveness of the bilateral aid portfolio

DFID Ghana exceeded six of the seven headline results targeted in its 2011–2015 plan, but this results framework covered less than half of the spending during the plan period

DFID Ghana exceeded six of the seven targets for its 2011–2015 Operational Plan (the Business Plan for 2016–17 to 2019–20 did not set targets). However, the plan’s results framework covers less than 50% of the spending during the plan period, making it a relatively weak instrument to track development results from the use of UK aid resources.

Table 5: DFID Ghana target and actual headline results

Furthermore, with the exception of one result – on the number of people voting in Ghana’s election – the indicators counted UK aid outputs and direct beneficiaries reached, rather than measuring outcomes in terms of progress in development results for Ghana.

Nevertheless, existing consultation data from people expected to benefit, as well as our research, shows that UK aid made a difference in the lives of the people it reached. An earlier evaluation of the livelihood support programme, for example, found positive effects on household consumption and savings, health care, debt reduction, productivity of adults and social networks.


“Before the grants, I had just half a hectare of land cultivated through household labour, and we harvested two to three bags of maize. However, when I started receiving the grants, I am now able to pay for tractor services of five hectares of land, buy seeds, weedicides and pay for farm labour. With this, I expanded the land size and was able to harvest 25 bags of maize last year. I sold ten bags, fed my family with six bags and will sell the rest to further expand my farm this year.”

LEAP grantee, Tamaligu

Recipients of the DFID bursaries in the girls’ education programme similarly noted that the support had a wide impact on their lives.


“My father had so many wives and many children, so he could not look after all of us. It is Camfed [the NGO that implemented the girls’ education bursary programme] that helped me throughout my education to senior secondary. I went to Tolon senior secondary school. I was so excited, I cannot describe it. They gave us all the things we needed for the full four years. They gave provisions and paid my school fees. Most of the girls who did not get Camfed’s support dropped out.

“Later, Camfed trained us to be peer educators. We learnt about financial literacy and entrepreneurship. I used to be timid, but they boosted my confidence. Then we came back to the community to also educate those coming up and our mates. In our local community, people don’t believe in girls’ education. They believe the girls’ place is in the kitchen. They don’t appreciate girls being literate. I disagree with them because girls have got so much. I am now a registered nurse. I just finished my national service and I am waiting to be posted.”

Ramatu Mohammed, graduate of the DFID programme providing school bursaries to girls, Tolon

UK aid lacks portfolio-level objectives to ensure the effectiveness of the Ghana portfolio

While DFID had an overall Ghana strategy in place, it did not identify portfolio-level outcome objectives in the governance, prosperity and human development areas. DFID’s plans66 did not include clear statements on what development outcomes UK aid was targeting in Ghana across programmes, or a results framework to monitor progress on such target outcomes. The plans’ strategic objectives were largely stated in terms of what UK aid was going to do. This provided little guidance to country office staff as programmes were developed, monitored and adjusted, or when there was pressure to add new intervention areas.

The situation is not unique to Ghana. Over most of the review period, DFID’s performance management approach was largely focused on results across countries and programmes that could be quantified, aggregated at the corporate level, and attributed directly to DFID, such as the headline results reflected in Table 5 above. This created incentives to pursue programmes that would contribute to these results, including through delivery outside of government systems, as discussed under the sustainability findings.

Our findings on DFID’s portfolio results management in Ghana reflect findings in the 2018 ICAI review of DFID’s approach to value for money in programme and portfolio management. This review also found that DFID lacks systems for maximising, monitoring and reporting on the achievement of objectives across portfolios of linked programmes. In focusing on output results, DFID’s reporting “provides a sense of the scale of the programming, but no picture of how the results fit into each country’s wider development, such as its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

At the portfolio level, our contribution analysis shows that UK aid programmes nonetheless often contributed to Ghana’s development results, but with varying levels of impact

A key question to assess portfolio-level effectiveness is to what degree the reported programme results contributed to strengthened governance, increased prosperity, and improved human development outcomes for the most vulnerable in Ghana.

One standard way of determining this would be to assess progress on the outcome targets set by UK aid in Ghana in the governance, prosperity and human development arena over the review period, and then analyse UK aid contributions to the changes observed. Unfortunately we were not able to use this method, as the DFID plans did not include clear statements on what outcomes UK aid was targeting in Ghana across programmes, or a results framework to monitor progress on such target outcomes, as explained above.

In order to assess portfolio-level effectiveness, we therefore identified the main outcome-oriented objective statements in DFID’s Operational Plan 2011–2015 and the Business Plan 2016–17 to 2019–20. We then mapped the UK aid portfolio against the selected statements and checked the contributing programmes’ results frameworks for appropriate measures to act as portfolio-level objectives. These were often programmes’ actual outcome measures. In some cases, these statements were not suitable for assessing the contribution to society-wide development results (see paragraph 4.57). In such cases we used the impact measures. This enabled us to approximate a portfolio-level contribution assessment, without imposing results and indicators on UK aid in Ghana after the fact.

In this process, we focused on our case studies, as they looked at the contribution of all the associated programmes to a UK aid objective (strengthening domestic resource mobilisation, for example). We also had good information on these case studies, since we were able to validate their reported results through field visits and interviews and learn more about the context in which results were achieved from our follow-up work. In total, the spending on the case studies (and therefore covered by our analysis) comprises just under 40% of UK aid spending in Ghana. The results of this contribution analysis are presented in summary in Table 6 below. More detail on the assessments is provided in Annex 1. The contribution of programmes to various levels of results was assessed relative to other factors as:

  • Negative or no contribution: UK aid programmes did more harm than good, or there were no results.
  • Limited contribution: A contribution for UK aid can be argued, but the contribution was not necessary to the results observed or relatively small given other factors.
  • Medium contribution: The contribution made by UK aid cannot be categorised as small, even if contributions from other actors and external factors were more significant.
  • Strong contribution: UK aid made a significant contribution relative to the other factors.
  • Essential contribution: Without the contribution of UK aid, the results observed would not have occurred, or the outcomes would have been much worse.

Table 6: UK aid’s contribution to Ghana’s development results

Our analysis shows that for the nine case study programmes where we were able to do in-depth research to assess their effectiveness, we found that out of the ten associated UK aid objectives for Ghana, the bilateral aid programme made an essential contribution to good results for two of them and strong contributions to four. In other cases, the contribution analysis found that programmes were started too recently, were at too small a scale and not leveraged as pilots, and were sub-optimally focused or too fragmented to have been effective given other contributions. At the same time, factors that were outside of DFID’s control negatively affected results, including worsening macroeconomic conditions (which stalled and reversed poverty gains before the period) and the government of Ghana’s ability to finance complementary actions.

In context, UK aid was able to achieve more than many other donors in key aspects of its performance against these ten objectives, as set out in summary below:

  • UK aid programmes benefited from DFID’s in-country sector advisers and, in the case of the revenue programme, from HMRC’s technical capacity. In governance and in some key performing social sector programmes, it also chose to work with service providers that were technically highly able. DFID’s country knowledge and its flexibility to respond to changing circumstances were seen by many stakeholders as central to why it was often able to achieve more than donors that were more remote and whose institutional set-up meant that they were less responsive.
  • In the mental health and complementary basic education programmes, DFID opted to support areas that had not received much support before, enabling rapid progress. It helped that it was able to make sizeable investments and it made good choices (from an effectiveness perspective) on how to assist in context. In this, having in-country advisers was also key.
  • Innovation (and country knowledge) was also important in anti-corruption, where DFID opted for a systemic approach, built around how key actors would be incentivised in context to act. Our interview evidence suggests that this made it more effective than donors who took narrow technocratic approaches. In this area, as well as its key revenue reform programmes, it was also patient, understanding the importance of relationships in support for institutional reforms.
  • DFID’s choice to work in formal partnerships with other donors meant that programmes could operate at a scale that made them effective and draw on its strengths and those of its partners as needed (for example livelihood support, community health services and support for out-of-school children), making these programmes more effective than single-donor programmes.
  • In some key social sector programmes, after the end of budget support, DFID opted for direct delivery of support to beneficiaries through non-state actors, supported by its capacities for managing service providers. From an effectiveness perspective, this allowed it to reach more beneficiaries faster in more remote communities than donors working more through state capacities.

At programme level, UK aid programmes almost always achieved or exceeded their output targets, as measured in DFID reviews. Progress on outcomes was less common, and not reported for about a quarter of programmes

DFID’s own review scores show positive output performance for most programmes. At programme level, the DFID Ghana median 2012 to 2019 portfolio quality index score (a DFID measure which shows how well the aggregate portfolio of programmes weighted by spending deliver their outputs) was 100.2. The score can range from 50 (outputs substantially did not meet expectation) to 150 (outputs substantially exceeded expectation). DFID Ghana’s performance on this measure was about equal to DFID’s global performance.

As the portfolio index score does not assess outcome performance, we tracked available DFID reviews to assess the most recent performance at this level as a complement to our contribution analysis, and were able to track outcome performance for 39 programmes (26 closed and 13 ongoing programmes).

At the outcome level, progress was less common and often not reported. Our assessment results are set out in Figure 13.

In summary:

  • For nine programmes, representing 16% of spending in our review period, the reviews did not have findings on outcome performance.
  • For 19 of the 30 programmes with outcome assessments, representing 53% of spending, programme outcome targets were achieved, or reviewers thought progress had been made.
  • For seven programmes, representing 28% of spending, outcome targets were assessed as largely not achieved.
  • In the remaining four programmes, all ongoing and representing spending of 3%, the reviewers found it was too early to assess, or information was not available.

Figure 13: DFID Ghana outcome performance on annual review and project completion reviews

Source: DevTracker and DFID Ghana. Data is from the programme completion reviews or last annual review for completed programmes, and from the latest annual review available for ongoing programmes. The outcome scores are based on the scores provided in the reports. Where no score was provided, it was derived from the text.

Outcomes were, however, set unevenly across programmes. Some programmes counted outcomes for the citizens directly affected by the programme (for example in complementary basic education they measured school transition and learning outcomes of the beneficiaries). Others counted increases in the number of people using a service as an outcome (for example the social safety net livelihood support programme counted the number of households benefiting as an outcome). While these are results of the programmes, they measure results for the beneficiaries and the programme scale or coverage, not the development outcomes for Ghana. Outcomes for other programmes were set more ambitiously as a change in a society-wide indicator (for example in the malaria support programme, the outcome measure was the percentage of children under five who had slept under a bed net the previous night).

The quality of DFID’s partnerships with the Ghanaian government and other actors has been a key factor in programme success

UK aid officials noted the critical role played by trust and partnership in achieving programme objectives. There is clear evidence that DFID Ghana has invested in partnerships to support its programmes and amplify its reach. It maintains partnerships with national government counterparts, actors outside of the state, and with fellow donors.

DFID Ghana has been able to uphold bilateral partnerships with government in the face of the collapse of multi-partner dialogue platforms in Ghana early in the review period, which reset Ghana’s formal and informal partnership system (see Box 8).

DFID’s relative partnership success with government appears to be because its main technical staff and decision-makers are based in country (which is not the case for all donors), and because it is responsive to the priorities and needs of the government of Ghana. Our interview evidence highlighted this across sectors. We were told by DFID that the role of the sector advisers is critical and will become even more so as technical assistance moves to the centre of the UK aid offer.

UK aid has also developed partnerships with CSOs, private sector organisations and media organisations that have supported the achievement of UK aid objectives in governance and private sector development. We have discussed the partnership with CSOs in the governance sector from paragraph 4.8 above. In private sector development, DFID implemented an innovative partnership with research institutions, think tanks and the media to strengthen its business enabling environment reform work. DFID is working with the UK-Ghana Business Council and Chamber of Commerce on constraints on UK-Ghana business and feeding this into the reform discussions. Partnership with CSOs in the social sector was centred on CSOs as implementing partners. With some exceptions – such as work on petty corruption in health in the Northern region – the potential for links between the work of STAR Ghana and the social sector programmes to build social accountability that supports UK aid objectives more specifically was not exploited enough.

DFID Ghana’s partnerships with its fellow donors are solid, for the most part. The development partners we spoke to were complimentary about the role played by DFID overall, including its complementary role in their sectors.

The role of the imputed multilateral share

UK aid’s multilateral partners have made key contributions to progress against UK aid objectives

Key contributions towards UK aid objectives were made by the IMF, the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), various global funds and the UN family. Figure 14 below presents the significant multilateral programmes that benefit from UK funding, and their results, where reported by the multilaterals. We collected data on these contributions from our review of multilateral documentation, including programme reports and evaluations, but did not try to assess their effectiveness independently.

Figure 14: Contribution from the multilateral share of UK aid funding

Multilateral partners bring leadership, technical depth, scale of financing and long-term partnerships that enhance the effectiveness of UK aid

Leadership: Multilateral agencies have taken the lead on partnership and policy dialogue with the government of Ghana. In the early years, the World Bank was the permanent co-chair for the multi-donor budget support platform and engaged with the government on behalf of development partners, including the UK. Donors relied on the Bank’s assessment of the government of Ghana’s adherence to the Partnership Principles for budget support. In later years, the IMF played a similar role on behalf of development partners under the Extended Credit Facility from 2015 to 2019.

Continuing support as bilateral partners reduce their aid: In the transition context, where UK (and other) bilateral aid budgets are shrinking, multilaterals are an important means of continuing long-term support for Ghana. Over the review period, there are key examples of where this has already happened. For instance, UNFPA (reproductive health and family planning) and Gavi (malaria) continued their activities where DFID Ghana bilateral support had ended. A central DFID programme continues to fund UNFPA and DFID contributes 26% of Gavi funding. And in public expenditure management, while DFID wound down its funding, the World Bank and the IMF continued a full programme of support.

Technical capacity: Multilateral agencies, especially the international finance institutions but also some global pooled funds, often have better access to tailored technical capacity and technical approaches tried elsewhere. For example, support for the business regulatory reform unit at the trade and industry ministry is better done by the World Bank, as the Bank is the architect of the Doing Business work and has breadth of knowledge and experience from a wide range of countries on policy options. In governance, DFID supported the adoption of anti-money laundering software (GoAML) in the Financial Intelligence Centre. The software was developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In social protection, the World Bank’s support to delivering cash benefits to the poor incorporates global lessons learned on reducing fiduciary risks and cross-ministerial coordination.

The multilaterals often produce good analytical and diagnostic work, especially when extensive depth and breadth of technical capacity is required. DFID draws on this work for its own purposes, but also to support its work with counterparts. In the domestic revenue reform programme the World Bank undertook an influential tax gap analysis, financed from the DFID Ghana budget. The tax gap analysis highlighted that 80% of the tax gap was due to under-collecting from large taxpayers, where only 20% of the tax collection effort was directed.

Larger financial reach: The international financial institutions have more financial resources to direct at problems, meaning higher potential for significant impact on systemic issues. World Bank funding for programmes in areas of DFID support is well above the amount of UK bilateral funding. This means they have the resources to undertake large data projects that are important for delivery on UK aid objectives, such as the development of a centralised data storage system for the Ghana Revenue Authority and the public financial management information system.

Wider variety of instruments to support Ghana’s transition: The international financial institutions and funds (the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank) are able to draw on significant resources to deploy a wide variety of instruments appropriate for Ghana’s changing context, especially to leverage additional private capital and to fill market gaps where commercial financing is not available – debt, equity, guarantee instruments to overcome barriers to investment, project development facilities and technical assistance funds.

DFID’s mechanisms to engage multilaterals on their work in Ghana at the global or country level in the context of transition are underdeveloped

There are many instances of partnership between UK aid programmes and multilateral programmes in joint work areas when objectives align. In these cases, DFID invests time and resources in its relationships with the multilaterals in order to align and leverage the comparative advantage of each.

There is little evidence, however, that DFID is strategically working with its multilateral partners, linking country and headquarter levels, to leverage its imputed share, besides long-standing processes of commenting on World Bank and African Development Bank programmes before board submission. In view of DFID’s objectives to leave no one behind and protect past development gains, such engagement is important given that DFID has reduced or exited support in areas where Ghana still faces significant development challenges (such as maternal and child health care or girls’ education outcomes in northern Ghana). DFID Ghana is just starting to work out strategies for doing this.

DFID’s systems to enable country teams to work through the Directorate for Economic Development and International in London are also underdeveloped. DFID Ghana drew our attention to its participation in the two DFID multilateral development reviews. But this is not the same as systematic links between country offices, including Ghana, and the Directorate on country priorities and opportunities to influence multilateral country strategies through global channels. We understood from the Multilateral Effectiveness Team that DFID London is currently assessing options to enable these kinds of systematic links.

Conclusion on effectiveness

DFID did not make clear what portfolio-level outcome results it was pursuing in Ghana. The only published results framework for the period was output-oriented and covered less than half of bilateral spending. Even at programme level its setting of outcome objectives sometimes targeted results that were about the scale of programmes and results for beneficiaries, rather than progress for Ghana overall.

We found that UK aid made an essential contribution to Ghana’s development progress in two, and a significant contribution in six, of ten programming areas we selected for in-depth review. We found that in these cases it was often able to deliver well in context relative to many other donors because of technical capacity, country knowledge and because it chose to support new areas, work in innovative ways, or opted for direct delivery to beneficiaries. Its success has also been aided by the quality of its partnerships with counterparts.

The fact that UK aid programmes in Ghana were often effective is supported by existing programme review documentation. DFID’s own reviews show that most programmes achieved target outputs and, in many cases, the outcome targets set. DFID also exceeded the headline results set in the (output-oriented) headline results framework.

UK aid’s multilateral partners have made key contributions to progress against UK aid objectives. In a transition context, multilateral institutions offer a means to continue UK aid support to Ghana. As yet, DFID’s ability to influence multilateral partner programming towards UK aid objectives in Ghana is poorly developed.

In conclusion we find that there are credible signals that the UK aid portfolio in Ghana is effective, but that UK aid as yet does not have the mechanisms to harness all its resources, including through multilaterals, to achieve the UK’s aid objectives. This amounts to a green-amber score for effectiveness.


Sustainability: How likely are the results of UK aid to be sustained in the future?

Strengthening sustainable Ghanaian institutions

DFID has a mixed record in contributing to stronger Ghanaian institutions for the longer term

Achieving sustainable results is the greatest challenge for external aid programmes. In a transition context, strengthened and sustainable Ghanaian institutions are critical to Ghana’s ability to finance and deliver its own development interventions and social services. We analysed whether the institutional strengthening that occurred in our ten case studies was sustainable. We interpreted institutions to refer to the full set of rules, systems and capacities needed for a service to be delivered or a system to be functional.

To assess progress, we used a model of ‘cumulative institutional strengthening’. Using a series of milestones, we assessed the degree to which each milestone was achieved in establishing functional, sustainable institutions. The milestones are deemed to be cumulative, with achievement of lower-level milestones (a verbal commitment, a policy document) supporting sustainability of later milestones (such as sustainable capacity building, pilots, institutions functioning at scale supported without donor financing). Figure 15 below shows the results of our analysis in each of the ten case studies. The further a bar progresses along the scale to the right, the more sustainability milestones have been achieved. The robustness (for sustainability) of achievement against the milestones is indicated by shading the lines. Darker blue lines show a higher likelihood that achievement of the milestone will be sustained than lighter blue lines.

Figure 15: Institutional strengthening assessment results

In none of the ten in-depth case studies could we find that the job was done. The closest was the teacher training programme, where there were strong signals that practice in Ghana’s colleges of education has changed, and that by 2019 teacher degrees were up and running with the first class graduating in 2020.

There is also evidence of UK bilateral aid contributing to elements of ‘very high’ institutional functionality in mental health and livelihood support. In the livelihood support programme, more than half of the target households were supported, government capacity was improved and the government already carried significant cost, and had committed to full government financing at some point in the future. In mental health, all hospitals provided mental health services by early 2019 and integration with community health services was being piloted. However, the full cost was not yet financed by the government of Ghana.

In community health services, the anti-corruption programme and domestic revenue mobilisation, some elements of ‘high’ institutional functionality were achieved, but we found that the change was as yet not robust or clearly sustainable. For example, in domestic revenue mobilisation, functionality was improved in some sub-areas of reform and Ghana was sustaining the progress made (for example the capacity built in the Bank of Ghana for oil revenue management and in the Ghana Revenue Authority for collecting tax from large taxpayers). But in other sub-areas in which DFID, HMRC and the NCA are working, much less progress was made.

In the rest of the case studies, we found institutional strengthening to be at best at the medium level of physical and human resource capacities, and that progress made at this level was not yet necessarily sustainable.

In summary, the case studies indicate that whereas UK aid has contributed to institutional strengthening in all ten case studies, we can only make a credible argument in three cases that the results are sustainable. In an additional three areas, there are early signals that sustainability can be achieved if the programmes continue. For the remainder, we could not say with confidence that the institutional strengthening that occurred is sustainable.

DFID chose delivery methods for social services that allowed initiatives to reach high numbers of beneficiaries, but at the expense of strengthening weak Ghanaian government systems

Six of our ten case studies were programmes in the social sector. Of these six, DFID supported and financed new or nascent types of services in five programmes, which did well in reaching beneficiaries (see the ‘effectiveness’ section of this review), but their novelty implies that strong and long-term institution building is required to build systemic implementation capacity to sustain them. In the case of the sixth, although the community health services policy was in place for 20 years, capacity building programmes were in operation from 2013, supported by the World Bank and DFID.

Table 7 shows the six social sector case studies. It shows that in three of the six cases, service delivery and management was not by government, or not exclusively by government. In all three cases both functions were largely fulfilled by non-state actors, which meant that DFID achieved good success, but with the risk of less sustainability unless the non-state actor in question had other sources of funding.

Table 7: New social sector initiatives started in the 2011–2015 Operational Plan period

In line with its commitment to shift from supporting government-wide public finance management systems to building capacity in specific sectors, DFID included capacity building and system strengthening elements in all the bilateral programmes assessed in our ten case studies (not just the six social sector ones), but none had resulted in system/technical or financial self-reliance at the end of the review period.

Serious system weaknesses continue to exist and hamper results in the social sectors. DFID’s own diagnostics, independent sector research and stakeholders we interviewed identified weak public service systems and serious weaknesses in public sector governance and accountability mechanisms as key constraints on improving social sector outcomes. The new Education Beyond Aid programme and forthcoming Partnerships Beyond Aid programme prioritise technical assistance to strengthen government of Ghana systems (although the scope of the new programme was unclear at the time of writing this report), but the technical assistance and system strengthening that has taken place in the review period was too superficial, unsuccessful, or (still) too early in its implementation.

The institutional strengthening model used in the governance sector shows early promise of being effective

Within our two governance case studies, three DFID Ghana programmes were initiated in the later part of the review period with designs that reflect global lessons on effective governance and institutional development work, including on working with political awareness, finding traction with units or individuals with a shared commitment to solving specific problems or better governance, and working adaptively by learning lessons on what works along the way. This approach is increasingly seen as more likely to bear fruit than top-down system-wide technocratic reforms.

Our governance case studies and interviews found evidence that early programme results in three of the four programmes can be attributed to this approach. For example, the anti-corruption programme selected the Financial Intelligence Centre as an entry point into the anti-corruption chain. Its new anti-money laundering software allowed the centre to draw data from other Ghanaian institutions, and enabled better links with these and other institutions in the anti-corruption chain. There is early evidence that the software has resulted in significantly more transactions being identified and processed, and better information sharing between the agencies.

Our literature review shows that political economy factors can easily derail efforts to strengthen technical capability. Common across the governance programmes is that they include support for both civil society (demand side) and government institution (supply side) interventions, and seek to build collaborative relationships between state and civil society actors with shared interests (see Box 4, in the ‘relevance’ section of this review).

Good examples of effective technical assistance are also common across the governance programme, resulting in an emerging model of good technical assistance, as set out in Box 9 below. We also found evidence that the teacher training and learning programme used similar elements in its institutional strengthening interventions.

In other areas institutional strengthening was not thoughtful and therefore less effective

We found multiple instances of institutional strengthening that was less effective, for example supporting new, unsustainable parallel structures, focusing on changes in laws, rules and procedures and not on change in practice, or being mostly about training. Our interview evidence supports findings in DFID’s own reviews that these interventions delivered limited results.

Protecting past development gains

UK aid’s bilateral and multilateral contribution to revenue mobilisation and macro-fiscal stabilisation is critical for Ghana’s return to significant growth and self-reliance to sustain its development gains

During Ghana’s 2014 macro-fiscal crisis, DFID’s contribution to the dialogue with the government of Ghana and its technical assistance to the Bank of Ghana helped resolve the crisis. DFID’s continued dialogue with the government of Ghana to redesign its remaining budget support was seen by stakeholders to be a key factor in the government of Ghana’s acceptance of an IMF programme. Furthermore, the work by the IMF and the World Bank on macro-fiscal stabilisation (IMF) and public financial management (IMF and World Bank) are important contributions via the UK aid imputed multilateral share to Ghana’s return to growth and protecting past development gains.

DFID and HRMC’s support to the Ghana Revenue Authority and to oil revenue management has contributed to real increases in revenue. As donor resources to Ghana diminish, the country is relying more on its own revenue to finance investments in human and infrastructure development for growth, and to ensure that no one is left behind.

Key human development results delivered by DFID through the financing of services during the review period remain at risk of not being sustained

From 2013–14, Ghana’s ability to take up the financing of social services that had been funded by donors was severely constrained by lower growth and ballooning debt interest payments. Almost all domestic revenue was tied up in personnel costs and interest payments. While the economy was in recovery from 2016 and tax collection was improving by 2018-19, the social sector continued to face difficulties in scaling up service delivery spending. Social sector budgets were increasing in nominal terms, but not as a share of the budget and of GDP. Furthermore, the government’s own resources were still largely tied up in personnel expenditure in the social sectors, with heavy reliance on donors to finance goods and services and capital expenditure. Tax collections were still some way from closing the tax gap.

DFID’s response to this set of circumstances, given its commitment to reduce the financing of service delivery, was inconsistent, both across and within sectors. We assessed whether, in practice, the gains made by DFID are likely to be sustained, as DFID’s Business Plan 2016–17 to 2019–20 asserted they would (see paragraph 4.19 above). Table 8 below assesses each of the case studies, providing basic programme details, DFID’s follow-up programming (if any) or exit strategy, and our assessment of the arguments. We find that out of five programmes, only one is likely to be sustainable without continuing the financing of service delivery until government can take over. This means that while DFID’s decision to shift aid from financing the costs of service delivery in Ghana may be justifiable in the longer term for a transition context, the decision about how quickly this shift should occur in the short term in Ghana’s context between 2015–16 and 2018–19 did not support the commitment to protect past development gains.

Table 8: Sustainability of results achieved through the financing of service delivery

Conclusion on sustainability

UK aid has strengthened Ghanaian state, civil society and market institutions, especially those that enable Ghana to self-finance investment and public services. It has contributed to Ghana’s macroeconomic management capability and stabilisation after the macroeconomic crisis. This will help sustain Ghana’s development gains.

DFID is gaining experience in how to deliver institutional strengthening and technical assistance initiatives well. The emerging model was, however, not applied across the portfolio and there are many instances where UK aid’s institutional strengthening interventions created unsustainable structures, or were overly about changing rules, procedures and guidelines and delivering training without also ensuring that practices change.

Furthermore, in the social sectors where DFID assisted many of the most vulnerable Ghanaians over the review period, it is not clear that the key results which DFID delivered will be sustained. This is critical in a context where the government of Ghana’s financial and delivery capacity will take time to develop.

We therefore conclude that there is a material likelihood that key results delivered by UK aid between 2011 and 2019 will not be sustained, meriting an amber-red score.

Conclusion and recommendations

Conclusion

Between 2011 and 2019, UK aid to Ghana was relevant for the most part to Ghana’s development needs and priorities, and placed the UK in a good position to contribute to Ghana’s transformation. The citizens we spoke to, especially the poor and those from remote districts, spoke about education and health services, employment opportunities and livelihoods among their top priorities. This is broadly aligned with UK aid’s investments in those sectors. The UK aid programme in Ghana was also consistent with global UK aid objectives and included good examples of consistency across time and complementarity between programme elements.

UK bilateral aid programmes delivered their intended outputs and outcomes (when measured), but the effectiveness of UK aid at portfolio level is more varied. UK aid was not well placed to manage its portfolio at this level, as it did not clearly target the development outcomes in Ghana that it wanted to achieve.

Partnership and well-delivered technical assistance contributed to programme effectiveness in some cases, but not all institutional strengthening and technical assistance programmes were well conceived. Some established parallel structures, developed guidelines and frameworks without ensuring they were implemented, or were mostly about training.

UK multilateral aid made key contributions to the achievement of UK development objectives, especially in the context of transition, where multilateral programmes will remain even as bilateral aid reduces. As yet DFID is not doing enough to engage multilaterals at country level to coordinate programmes and facilitate continued support for UK aid objectives through UK multilateral aid.

It is not clear that significant results from UK bilateral aid programmes will be sustained. Our review period covers two significant sets of change in the UK’s approach in Ghana. In the first plan period (2011 to 2015), UK aid ended budget support and reduced the share of its portfolio that was delivered through government. In order to reach more of the most vulnerable directly with services – at least partly in response to the corporate emphasis on attributable, aggregable results – it developed delivery capacity outside of the state in some of its key social programmes. This delivered good results but was at the cost of developing the core systems of the state for sustainable services.

In the second plan period (2016 to 2019), UK aid’s new strategy was to reduce financial aid, exit most of its direct service delivery programmes, and position itself as a strategic partner for government through technical assistance. While this may appear justifiable in view of the government of Ghana’s Beyond Aid vision, DFID’s approach to the transition context and the UK’s wish to shift to a new economic partnership built around mutual prosperity, the switch-around and the pace at which it reduced aid mean that the key results UK aid delivered when it was financing services directly are at high risk of not being sustainable.

Recommendations

Recommendation 1:

In transition contexts, DFID should ensure that the pace of ending the bilateral financing of service delivery in areas of continuing social need must be grounded in a realistic assessment of whether the gap left will be filled.

Problem statements:

  • Programming in the social services sectors absorbed 84% of DFID Ghana’s reduction in bilateral spending during the review period. The annual average bilateral DFID Ghana resource flows to services for the most vulnerable reduced by 42% from the period 2011–12/2013–14 to the period 2016–17/2018–19.This left some gains achieved in the social sectors at risk of being reversed.
  • The decisions on reducing funding were not underpinned by robust analysis of the financing, service delivery and development result implications. Rather, decisions were driven by shifts in UK aid policy and the Ghanaian government’s beyond aid agenda.
  • The reductions in UK aid funding of social service delivery are taking place during a period when poverty in Ghana is increasing again and regional inequality worsening, while the financial capacity of the Ghanaian government to finance new or expanded social service programmes remains limited.

Recommendation 2:

DFID should require portfolio-level development outcome objectives and results frameworks for its country programmes.

Problem statements:

  • The two plans directing DFID’s spending of UK aid in Ghana did not specify measures to target and track which development outcomes DFID wanted to help Ghana achieve.
  • DFID’s programme-level results targeting also often lacked proper development outcome objectives.
  • In the absence of such medium-to-long-term objectives, the emphasis in DFID on attributable, aggregable results encouraged programming that delivered such results in the short term without enough attention to sustainable, scaled-up impact in Ghana.
  • In the absence of clear statements on the development outcomes the UK wants to achieve in Ghana, UK aid runs the risk of sub-optimal programming choices. When strategic objectives are formulated in terms of what existing programmes do, choices about continuing programmes or starting new programmes are not well guided.

Recommendation 3:

DFID Ghana should learn from its own successes and failures when designing and delivering its systems strengthening support and technical assistance.

Problem statements:

  • In the review period, DFID did not consistently apply the lessons from its programmes that have successfully strengthened systems and delivered technical assistance.
  • DFID’s partnerships with government are the result of having sector advisers resident in country. As its bilateral aid reduces, it may not have the staff to sustain this engagement, which will put more pressure on its technical assistance programmes delivering.

Recommendation 4:

In transition contexts, DFID country offices, in coordination with the multilateral policy leads, should increasingly work to influence the department’s country multilateral partners on issues of strategic importance.

Problem statements:

  • In Ghana, UK aid has not changed how it engages multilateral country partners to reflect that the UK also has a strategic interest in how the multilateral share is spent when it is not an active partner in programmes. This will become more important as its bilateral aid reduces, especially to ensure that no one is left behind and past development gains are not reversed.
  • Mechanisms to enable country offices to feed into the Directorate of Economic Development and International’s engagement with multilateral institutions at the global level are also underdeveloped.

Recommendation 5:

In order to strengthen the relevance of its aid programming and accountability to the people expected to benefit, DFID should include information on citizen needs and preferences, especially for the most vulnerable, as a systematic requirement for portfolio and programme design and management.

Problem statements:

  • DFID does not require information on citizens’ perspectives for country or programme diagnostics. In Ghana, the degree to which citizens have consistently seen health, education and livelihoods as pressing priorities was not part of the country diagnostics on whether and how fast to reduce aid for service delivery.
  • In programmes where services are delivered directly to citizens, initial engagement during programme design and regular consultation during implementation is not a standard component of programme management.
  • When UK aid finances Ghanaian government-led programmes, it does not have a standard requirement to ensure that the government has good information on the needs and wants of citizens for such programmes.

Recommendation 6:

The government should provide clear guidance on how UK aid resources should be used in implementing mutual prosperity objectives to minimise risks and maximise opportunities for development.

Problem statements:

  • Although there is currently caution in pursuing mutual prosperity, and even some benefits for ensuring non-ODA spending contributes more to development, the increased focus on secondary benefits to the UK from aid and development programmes carries risks.
  • In the absence of clear rules and guidelines on aid use when it is managed through a joint strategy and platform with other UK government instruments and policy levers, the ability of country offices to manage these risks is too reliant on leadership continuing to give priority to development objectives, and the capacity of DFID country teams to engage with their UK government counterparts on risks.

Annexes

Annex 1: Analysis of UK aid’s contribution to relevant development outcomes in Ghana

The table below provides our analysis of development outcomes in ten results areas that are central to UK aid’s programming in Ghana. The analysis draws on nine of our ten case studies. The tenth case – support to teacher training – is not analysed as it has not yet contributed to development outcomes (education quality) given the first cohort of UK aid-supported teachers will only graduate in 2020. For the nine objectives analysed, the information is based on mixed evidence sources, including: 1) external reviews and evaluations of UK aid programmes, 2) DFID’s programme documentation, especially annual and end of project reviews, 3) government of Ghana reports, 4) independent literature and databases, and 5) our fieldwork interviews. We used the table in our contribution analysis to help construct a credible argument as to what results have been achieved, if any, and UK aid’s contribution to those results.

In order to rate UK aid’s contributions, we used a qualitative scale:

  • Negative or no contribution: the UK aid programmes did more harm than good, or there were no results.
  • Limited contribution: A contribution for UK aid can be argued, but the contribution was not necessary to the results observed or relatively small given other factors.
  • Medium contribution: The contribution made by UK aid cannot be categorised as small, even if contributions from other actors and external factors were more significant.
  • Strong contribution: UK aid made a significant contribution relative to the other factors in the results observed.
  • Essential contribution: Without the contribution of UK aid, the results observed would not have occurred, or the outcomes would have been much worse.