It is well established that most donors provide more bilateral aid to former colonies than other recipient countries. This is certainly the case for the two former colonial powers this study focuses on, Britain and France. It is commonly argued that bilateral aid serves for maintaining political influence and economic relationships that developed during colonial times (Alesina and Dollar 2000; Berthélemy and Tichit 2004; Fuchs et al. 2014). However, not all scholars argue that self-interest determines aid disbursements to former colonies. Others point out that colonial powers increasingly assumed responsibility for the well-being of subjugated populations, due to growing cultural similarities (Schraeder et al. 1998) and deliberations among domestic and international political circles (Lewis 2011; Pacquement 2010).
Most comparative work on colonial legacies of international aid focuses on the overall generosity of donors toward former colonies. This chapter seeks to reveal in greater detail how colonial legacies unfold. Therefore, two aspects of contemporary international aid take the center stage. First, the extent to which donors prioritize social protection, promoting activities such as health and education; and second, the actors involved in the distribution of aid, in particular aid directed at social protection. As the review below shows, the existing literature suggests that colonial legacies are likely to become manifest in these regards. Other than that, this choice is arbitrary, and it is likely that colonial legacies affect international aid in many other ways. That said, focusing on policy priorities and aid actors offers a reasonable starting point for advancing knowledge about colonial legacies in international aid.
Policy Priorities: Social Protection
empires were first and foremost economic undertakings. Their primary aim was to exploit colonized territories to the benefit of their metropoles. Colonial powers like Britain and France therefore initiated economic structures and re-shaped existing ones to best suit this purpose. This was achieved by aligning policies with the overarching aim of economic exploitation. With regard to social protection, this implied a minimalist approach that focused on attracting Europeans to the overseas territories and on retaining a viable labor force within the colonies. There was little interest in what goods were demanded locally. As a result, colonial economies focused on mining and agriculture, cash crops in particular, and unsurprisingly they were strongly export-oriented.
Social protection was also promoted for non-economic reasons, especially during later years. Colonial administrators were concerned about the well-being and social status of Europeans and, at least to some extent, about the well-being of the subjugated populations (Lewis 2011; Pacquement 2010). Basic social services for the indigenous population were furthermore needed to reduce labor scarcity prevalent in many colonies. Although unintended, migration in both directions led to a growing number of personal ties between metropole and colony, which increased the chances that social needs within the colonies were recognized and addressed (Lahiri and Raimondos-Møller 2000). Furthermore, after World War I international organizations became active in colonial politics and policy-making, urging colonial powers to take more and more responsibility for the situation in territories dependent on them (Pearson 2018).
While the British and the French colonial empires both had the primary aim of economic exploitation, they differed widely when it comes to specific policy areas. Social protection is no exception. British administrations rarely provided benefits to anyone but government workers. Other schemes were initiated only if pre-existing local arrangements would not suffice and, as I discuss further below, if no other external actor, like missions or firms, stepped in. Mirroring social protection policies at home, France provided benefits to a wider set of workers, including many of those in formal employment. More generally, France frequently extended metropolitan laws and rights to colonies, with the ultimate goal of assimilating subjugated populations (Iliffe 1987; Kpessa 2010). At the same time, France’s interventionist approach often came at the expense of local practices and institutions, which were rarely promoted and often curtailed instead (Suret-Canale 1971).
Independence had little effect on the economic set-up of (former) colonies, in particular regarding sectoral composition and export orientation. Companies that previously enjoyed quasi-monopolistic positions lobbied for favorable trade agreements with former colonies and, where possible, continued their operations. They were supported by the former colonial powers which continued to shape and influence policy-making in the newly independent territories, for example by providing aid (Alesina and Dollar 2000; Fuchs et al. 2014). In fact, the provision of aid to advance trade interests is not limited to former colonies or the aftermath of independence but continues to be a wide-spread practice (Berthélemy and Tichit 2004; Schraeder et al. 1998). The consequence for former colonies is that many remain dependent on international markets and continue to have strong trade links with their former colonizers (Abernethy 2000; Cardoso and Faletto 1979).
Besides the promotion of trade interests, donors (including former colonial powers) often prioritize aid to countries where social needs go unaddressed. Several studies have shown that most aid goes to countries with high levels of economic poverty (Dollar and Levin 2006; Easterly and Pfutze 2008; Nunnenkamp and Thiele 2006), whereas others have demonstrated a focus on countries with poor health outcomes (Bodenstein and Kemmerling 2015; Boschini and Olofsgård 2007; Schraeder et al. 1998). Although these studies do not explore whether donors prioritize social needs of former colonies over those of other recipients, there are good reasons to suspect that this is the case. Donors might continue to be concerned about the welfare of formerly subjugated populations (Pacquement 2010), personal networks can put former colonies in politically advantageous positions (Lahiri and Raimondos-Møller 2000), and international organizations sustain pressure on donors to assume responsibility for territories they once ruled (Pearson 2018).
Colonial powers promoted social protection for intrinsic and, more commonly, instrumental reasons. However, little is known about whether early investments in social protection of many of today’s developing countries affect contemporary patterns of bilateral aid. While independence brought major changes with it, it is also clear that many political, economic and social ties have survived. It can be argued that this is also the reason why many former colonial powers continue to promote social protection. Thus, the first hypothesis I test in this chapter is that donors prioritize social protection when providing aid to former colonies or, to put it differently, that compared to other recipients larger shares of aid to former colonies are directed toward social protection. I have also argued that the French colonial government assumed a more interventionist role in matters of social protection than Britain did in its empire. Thus, the second hypothesis I explore is that the prioritization of social protection is especially pronounced in the case of French aid.
Colonialism is not a unitary phenomenon. Abernethy (2000) explains the rise of European colonial empires with the interplay of three decisive types of actors: governments, firms and missions. While these actors often had competing interests in Europe, their actions overseas proved highly synergetic. It is furthermore important to realize that each type of actor is internally split, consisting of an umbrella organization in the metropole and its representations abroad (Abernethy 2000). Beyond this basic set-up, important differences between colonial empires can be noted. The French empire followed a more centralized approach. This tied administrations in the colonies more closely to the French government and gave them less room to adjust laws and practices to local context (Lee and Schultz 2012; Schmitt 2015). Catholic France also had a more restrictive stance on the activities of Protestant missions. Instead, the British government early succumbed to lobbying by the British East India Company and allowed both Catholic and Protestant missions to operate within its territories (Woodberry 2012).
A common conceptual distinction in scholarship on colonialism is that between direct and indirect rule (Gerring et al. 2011; Iyer 2010; Mamdani 1996). The two kinds of rule mainly distinguish how local political institutions and elites are incorporated into the colonial empire. Direct rule implies the imposition of new administrative structures that overwrite existing ones. Locals that assume positions in the new administration are usually not members of the former elite. To the contrary, indirect rule implies the installation of a new administration at the head of existing structures. While this also imposes a clear hierarchy, power is projected through existing structures and in collaboration with established local elites. Of course, this collaboration was not always voluntary and colonial administrators could, if they deemed it necessary, rely on military force and other more “collaborative” elites.
The French empire applied, with few exceptions, direct rule. The British Empire was mainly characterized by indirect rule. Direct rule in the French empire thus led to the establishment of governmental structures akin to those in mainland France. At the same time existing structures were dwarfed, placing greater relative weight on the new governing bodies. The dwarfing of existing structures was not limited to political institutions but included social and economic ones. This was often justified with ideas about “assimilation”, which had the ultimate goal to extent French citizenship to colonial subjects (Wesseling 2004). The British government, instead, accepted local actors and institutions, and if it facilitated economic exploitation, even promoted them (Midgley 2011).
The degree of centralization, type of rule and assimilation strategies also had implications for the provision of social protection in colonies. As regards other local practices and institutions, French administrations ignored, or even worked against, social protection arrangements established before colonization. Local medical practices, which were decried as “witchcraft”, are one such example (Suret-Canale 1971). Instead, colonial administrations in the French empire sought to transplant arrangements from the metropole to colonized territories. While social protection spread widely only in the 1950s, after the creation of the French Union, it covered a wide range of social needs, such as illness, maternity or work accidents (Iliffe 1987, 208). Due to the application of French law within colonized territories, social protection provided by the state often extended beyond government workers to also include workers in formal employment (Kpessa 2010).
British administrations were less committed to government-provided social protection. On the one hand, there was a high reliance on pre-existing local arrangements, which were only to be complemented if changes induced by colonization gave rise to new needs, for example due to labor migration (Kpessa 2010; Midgley 2011). On the other hand, British administrations more strongly involved other external actors in the provision of social protection. As such, missions were encouraged to establish schools and hospitals and were called upon to address various social risks through the establishment of provident funds (Dixon 1989). For both empires it must be said that externally initiated initiatives—with the exception of missionary activities—were largely limited to Europeans and only gradually, if at all, extended to local populations. They were extended to local populations; this was usually done to protect the health and well-being of Europeans (Suret-Canale 1971; Wesseling 2004).
In the twentieth century, international organizations entered the field of social protection (Deacon 2007; Pedersen 2015). While their involvement represented an emerging Western-centric consensus on the global stage, colonial powers were frequently opposed to specific initiatives. This is especially true for the French government, which—more often than the British government—regarded the involvement of international organizations to be against its interests. Efforts by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to abolish forced labor are one example. Even a public condemnation of French activities in the Congo at the 12th ILO conference in 1929 had no discernible effect on practices within the empire (Suret-Canale 1971, 244–55). France eventually committed to the abolition of forced labor in its colonies in 1946, a step Britain had taken more than a decade earlier (Daughton 2013; Maul 2007). Similarly, France also perceived the expansion of UN organizations as a threat and opposed the establishment of representations in its colonies (e.g. a regional office of the World Health Organization in Africa). The founding of the French Union itself, which implied the integration of colonies into French territory, can be seen as an attempt to countervail the mounting anticolonial pressures from international bodies (Pearson 2018).
The preceding discussion shows that the two colonial empires, Britain and France, relied on different sets of actors for organizing their colonial empires (see Shriwise, Chap. 2, this volume). Direct rule, a highly centralized bureaucracy and the assimilation strategy in the French empire implied a strong reliance on and promotion of governmental capacities. This also entailed closer institutional ties between the metropolitan government and colonial administrations in the dependent territories than was the case in the British Empire. The government in London not only gave colonial administrations greater leeway, it also collaborated more intensely with other actors. As a result, the British Empire relied relatively less on governmental capacities. Therefore, my third hypothesis concerns the involvement of governmental actors vis-à-vis other actors in the disbursement of bilateral aid: Relative to British aid, more French aid to former colonies is distributed through governmental channels (including the newly independent governments).
These differences between the empires are also found when it comes to social protection. While the French government took charge of activities such as education, health and pensions, the British government eagerly outsourced these activities to other actors, most notably missions, indigenous communities and firms. British authorities were also more likely to nurture ties with international organizations, whereas France often sought to shield itself from their influence. Whether relying on governmental capacities simply mirrors the general approach of the French government or is particularly pronounced with regard to social protection is an open question. To test this, hypothesis four states that the French reliance on governmental channels in distributing aid to former colonies is particularly pronounced with regard to social protection.
Earlier research on aid determinants has shown that colonial legacies lead to greater donor generosity. However, I have argued that colonial legacies should also have an impact on what policy areas donors give aid to and on the actors that donor governments involve in the disbursement of aid. Until recently, these claims could not be tested comparatively, as aid data was only available in highly aggregated form. In the following, I draw on new disaggregated data that allows me to determine the distribution of aid across policy areas and actors. I test the four hypotheses developed above. First, the social protection share is higher with aid to former colonies than with aid to other countries. Second, the social protection share of aid to former colonies is especially pronounced for French aid. Third, a larger share of French aid to former colonies, in comparison to British aid, is disbursed through governmental channels. Fourth, the French reliance on governmental channels is particularly pronounced for aid directed at social protection in former colonies.