Tracking Underreported Financial Flows

AidData - Tracking emerging donors

China and other emerging donors are fundamentally changing the development finance landscape; however, many of these actors do not participate in existing global reporting systems, such as the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. AidData employs a range of different methodologies and technologies to fill these critical information gaps and help those who seek to understand the nature, distribution, and effects of development finance from these influential actors. Read about this work below or explore our data at and and

Non-DAC Sources of Development Finance

Non-Western suppliers of international development finance that are outside the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) -- often identified as non-DAC donors -- play an increasingly important role. Estimates of official development assistance (ODA) from non-DAC sources vary widely from $11 billion to $41.7 billion per year. Countries such as China, India, and Saudi Arabia are often called ‘Emerging Donors,’ but many of these countries have provided international development finance for more than 30 years. Additionally, many non-Western suppliers of international development finance are findingnew ways of supporting partner countries that go beyond the traditional, ODA grants and concessional loans. AidData has developed new methodologies to capture South-South cooperation activities and other non-DAC sources of development finance activities in a reliable and systematic manner. To date, we have collated, cleaned, standardized, and published official data from 38 non-DAC bilateral and multilateral institutions. 

Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows

AidData has pioneered the creation of an innovative, open-source methodology to provide a more complete picture of non-DAC  development finance activities. The Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF) methodology synthesizes and standardizes vast amounts of unstructured, project-level information from governments, international organizations, civil society groups, the private sector, journalists, and researchers. Initially created to track Chinese development finance to Africa, AidData is now applying the TUFF methodology to better understand the activities of both non-DAC and DAC development partners (when there is incomplete information in public domain). TUFF-based data is currently available for ChinaSaudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Chinese Aid

Launched in April 2013, AidData’s Chinese development finance dataset now tracks 2,312 projects in 50 countries totaling $94.31 billion between 2000 and 2013. This comprehensive source of project-level information on official finance from China to Africa is available through a special online platform that AidData has developed to help users to not only visualize and explore its data, but also as scrutinize its project information and provide  feedback to eliminate data gaps and improve data accuracy. For more information on AidData's innovative China data collection and analysis, view this page or the TUFF methodology.

AidData will soon be releasing an updated version of its Chinese development finance dataset with global coverage. For more information, contact

Gulf States

AidData has also used the TUFF methodology to track the donors in the Middle East Region: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Gulf donors are some of the most generous donors in the world, with both Saudi Arabia and Qatar giving over 0.7% of GNI in 2013. Few details are known about these flows though – until now. AidData’s TUFF-based data collection activities have revealed more than 300 ODA and OOF projects from Saudi Arabia and Qatar between 2010-2013, totalling over $52 billion combined. At the moment, our data only systematically cover 13+ recipients, but we are continually adding additional recipients and years. Users can access a static version of the dataset through AidData’s Donor Datasets page.


Services that AidData Provides to non-DAC Development Agencies

1. Global Standards Reporting: For non-DAC development agencies that already store and organize project- or activity-level information in an internal database, we work with these institutions to standardize their data and align with global reporting standards. AidData has a ten year track record of “cross-walking” the databases and information repositories of individual development agencies to global reporting standards and databases.        

2. Standardizing Data: Making For non-DAC development agencies that possess project- or activity-level information not yet stored in a single data repository, we help them digitize, standardize, and publish project-level information contained in long- form project documents, online web pages, or similar formats. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology and various web-scraping tools, AidData digitizes, catalogues, and publishes donor information previously locked in physical project documents and annual reports or in stand-alone websites. In total, AidData has standardized and published data using these methods for over 30 donors, including South Africa, India, and many other non-DAC donors.      

3. API and Technical Service Delivery: We build intuitive application programming interfaces (APIs) to help non-DAC development agencies export their data in ways that are accessible, useful, and consistent with international standards. AidData’s highly-trained team of information technology experts help development finance institutions publish their existing project-level data through an API, enabling this data to be easily searched and exported to the user’s requirements.          

4. Train the Trainers: We offer training and capacity building opportunities to help non-DAC development agency personnel to more effectively capture, report, publish, visualize, and analyze project-level data. AidData staff can conduct a “needs assessment” for a development agency to assess existing systems and make recommendations for how data collection, categorization, and reporting can be made compatible with global standards. To strengthen institutional capacity to build and maintain standardized reporting systems, AidData can either host development finance personnel for a rotation at our offices in Washington D.C. or Williamsburg, Virginia. Training modules include: (a) data management and quality assurance; (b) sustainable reporting systems and international best practices; and (c) geocoding and geospatial analysis of aid.

5. Geo-locate Activity Locations: We work in close partnership with development agencies to pinpoint the precise physical locations of development cooperation projects – a process called subnational geocoding – and make this geographic information useful for in-country targeting and coordination efforts. Geocoded investment data is the basic building block for mapping the spatial distribution and impact of aid. Maps and analytic dashboards overlay project data with socio-economic indicators, such as poverty and malnutrition rates, visualizing where funds are going at a subnational level compared to areas of greatest need and opportunity.