Unpacking Finance for Development

Authors: Ilias Alami*, Maastricht University, Adam Dixon , Maastricht University, Emma Mawdsley , Cambridge University
Topics: Economic Geography, Development, Political Geography
Keywords: finance, development, aid, SDGs, geopolitical economy, Global South, financialization, international capital flows
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Capitol Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


International development is in a period of turbulent change. Neo-mercantilist and geopolitical considerations are being re-centred in donor strategies, in a context of a rapidly changing development landscape and the partial fracturing of the North-South axis that historically framed mainstream development imaginaries and interventions. Likewise, a growing number of countries across the income spectrum have established state-sponsored strategic investment funds to co-invest with private partners and other sovereign entities, bringing the tools of modern finance into contemporary industrial policy-making. Conventional development institutions have, for their part, re-centred private sector-led economic growth in their narratives, policies and partnerships, and signalled a move from ‘foreign aid’ to ‘development finance’. The growing buzz has been around drawing in vastly bigger financial resources by using overseas development assistance to catalyse and leverage private sector investment on a massive scale. One slogan of the Sustainable Development Goals is ‘from billions to trillions’, predicated precisely on a world ‘beyond aid’. This expansion of finance and financial markets in the name of development entails partnerships with actors that were not traditionally involved in development finance, such as hedge funds, venture capital, investment banks, credit rating agencies, global accountancy firms, and financial intermediaries. These trends have occurred at the same time as incredible expansion in financial instruments, practices, and programs targeting individuals, households and small-and-medium enterprises across the Global South, and in the management of land, nature, infrastructure, land and energy. This paper provides a critical review of these trends and the outlines of a unified research strategy.

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