This Week: From Formidable Famine, to Promising Partnerships

As the world reflects on what came out of the US-Africa Leaders Summit earlier this month, some have argued that the summit indicates a distinct shift from a relationship with African countries based on aid to one based on commercial ties.  Evidence for the latter is seen in the $14 billion that private companies pledged in trade deals with African countries over the course of the summit.  Additionally, the US announced $7 billion to promote US exports and $12 billion to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

There has also been debate over whether President Obama’s foreign policy is changing with regard to humanitarian intervention in the Middle East, as demonstrated by his recent authorization of air drops of food and water to Iraqi civilians and airstrikes against the Islamic State

Following a UN Security Council delegation’s visit to South Sudan last week, the US added $180 million to its previously promised $456 million and to the $600 million pledged by the international community to alleviate food insecurity there.  According to one source, the South Sudanese government has announced its desire to help mobilize aid from the international community.  However, donors often wait until the last minute, sometimes too late to help.  Secretary John Kerry has called the situation in South Sudan, “the worst food security crisis in the world with a real risk of famine.”

Meeting with President Salva Kiir during August visit to South Sudan

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Security Council President Mark Lyall Grant meet with President Salva Kiir during a visit to South Sudan in August 2014 (Source: United Nations/JC McIlwalne)

On a more optimistic note, Andrew Sisson, Director of USAID’s Global Development Lab, expressed his belief in science, tech, and innovative partnerships to eliminate poverty.  While USAID’s goal to achieve this by 2030 may seem ambitious, Sisson is hopeful that the Global Development Lab has the potential to see this goal through.

AidData Summer Fellows are wrapping up their time working to build these innovative partnerships with local organizations to improve data capacity.  Read SciDev.net’s take on this programming here and continue to follow us on Twitter and The First Tranche to hear more about our Summer Fellows’ experiences. 

Another new development for open data: you can now explore AidData’s first geocoded dataset published to IATI to find out who is funding what and where in Nepal.  Locations of projects in Nepal’s Aid Management Platform were geocoded using information gathered from in-country donor offices, and the data represents 482 projects that operate in over 21,000 total locations.  This being said, data is insufficient in itself to improve transparency and accountability.  Someone needs to “connect the dots,” as explained in Jed Miller’s overview of how various organizations are creating better tools to “follow the money.”

Katie Paulson-Smith is the Special Assistant to AidData’s Co-Executive Director based at the College of William & Mary.

Tags: AfricaSummitTradeaidSouth SudanhumanitarianfaminedroughtISISUNUnited NationsfoodinsecurityiatiAMPNepalUSAIDsummerfellowsASF