The changing nature of UK aid in Ghana

UK aid has been “mostly effective” at helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable in Ghana – but as the country works to become less reliant on aid, the UK should take care not to scale back its financial support too quickly.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 12 February 2020
  3. Type: Country portfolio review
  4. Subject: Country focus, Transitioning development partnerships
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Ghana
  7. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton
  8. SDGs covered:No poverty, Reduced inequalities, Partnerships for the goals, Good health and wellbeing, Quality education, Gender equality, Decent work and economic growth, Industry, innovation and infrastructure

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We awarded a green-amber score and made six recommendations after finding that UK aid has been “mostly effective” at helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable in Ghana – but as the country works to become less reliant on aid, the UK should take care not to scale back its financial support too quickly.



  • The UK aid portfolio responded well to Ghana’s governance challenges and its need to self-finance its development.
  • DFID’s social sector programming reflects the concerns of the poor and targets population groups at risk of being left behind.
  • However, crucial decisions on reducing aid in the social sectors were made without a sound analysis of the implications for service delivery.
  • UK aid support for private sector development reflects the importance of economic diversification, inclusive growth and job creation for Ghana.
  • 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.
  • 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 exceeded six of the seven headline results targeted in its 2011-2015 operational plan, however, the plan’s results framework covers less than 50% of the spending during that time.
  • UK aid lacks portfolio-level objectives to ensure the effectiveness of the Ghana portfolio, but our contribution analysis showed that UK aid programmes often contributed to Ghana’s development results, with varying levels of effectiveness.
  • At programme level, UK aid programmes almost always achieved or exceeded their output targets, as measured in DFID reviews. But, progress on outcomes was less common, and not reported for about a quarter of programmes.
  • UK aid’s multilateral partners have made key contributions to progress against UK aid objectives.
  • But, DFID’s mechanisms to engage multilaterals at the global or country level on their work in Ghana in the context of transition are underdeveloped.


  • DFID has a mixed record in contributing to stronger Ghanaian institutions for the longer term.
  • 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.
  • The institutional strengthening model used in the governance sector shows early promise of being effective. In other areas institutional strengthening was not thoughtful and therefore less effective.
  • 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.
  • Key human development results delivered by DFID through the financing of services during the review period remain at risk of not being sustained.


  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.
  2. DFID should require portfolio level development outcome objectives and results frameworks for its country programmes.
  3. DFID Ghana should learn from its own successes and failures when designing and delivering its systems strengthening support and technical assistance.
  4. In transition contexts, DFID country offices should increasingly work to influence the department’s country multilateral partners on issues of strategic importance.
  5. DFID should include information on citizen needs and preferences as a systematic requirement for portfolio and programme design and management.
  6. The government should provide clear guidance on how UK aid resources should be used in implementing mutual prosperity objectives.


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Published 20 May 2019

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 12 February 2020

Government response

Published 25 March 2020

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 9 July 2020

ICAI follow-up

Published 23 June 2021

Further follow-up

Published 30 June 2022

Third follow-up

Published 18 July 2023