More donors, more choice? Challenging notions that the Zambian government can secure greater policy space in the changing aid landscape

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: IDD


There is a gap in the current knowledge base in relation to examining African agency in the context of the move to a multipolar global order, and the shifting flows of development assistance. This research will critique the prevalent notion that the changing aid landscape gives African states more 'choice' in the finance they accept, and expands their room-for-manoeuvre when dealing with OECD-DAC development partners. It will investigate and analyse the degree of agency African states exercise in relationships with OECD-DAC development partners, and to what extent their room-for-manoeuvre is expanding as a result of the (re-)emergence of non-OECD-DAC development partners. In particular it will look at Zambia, a country which has historically received high levels of aid from OECD-DAC development partners but which also has significant, historical and contemporary, links to (re-)emerging non-OECD-DAC development partners such as China. It will examine how different parts of the Zambian state enact agency in negotiations, whether their room-for-manoeuvre is expanding, and what opportunities to increase policy space are made available by this. Furthermore, it will consider information asymmetries between the government and Western development partners about the activities of other actors and whether the government is able to instrumentalise these to create room-for-manoeuvre. These questions are important in considering if and how the aid system is changing as the result of the (re)emergence of non-OECD-DAC donors.

To answer the research questions, qualitative data will be obtained during overseas fieldwork in Zambia. Data will be obtained through interviewing officials from the Zambian government and development partners. Interviews will particularly focus on their experiences of negotiating financial packages and perceptions of development partner and government priorities within those negotiations. They will also focus on the experiences of Zambian officials working with non-Western development partners, and the knowledge that Western officials have of non-Western actors in Zambia. This data will be triangulated with documentary evidence, including archival, recording both public statements about Zambia's international relations with development partners and internal documents relating to specific negotiations.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1925603 Studentship ES/P000711/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Nicola Clare Heaton
Description International Development Department Research Fund
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 12/2019
Description Affiliation to the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR) 
Organisation Southern African Institute for Policy and Research
Country Zambia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The SAIPAR affiliation programme hosts scholars who can contribute to and enrich the community's intellectual and research activities. In addition to conducting research, visitors are expected to actively participate in SAIPAR's institutional activities.
Collaborator Contribution The SAIPAR affiliation programme supported fieldwork in Lusaka. It facilitated research (airport transfer, office space, contacts, links, sources of information etc), and paperwork (research permit, introductory letters etc).
Impact Ongoing
Start Year 2020