An assessment of donor funding practice and its impacts on meeting the development objectives of recipients: a case study of the Africa Virtual University (AVU), Nairobi, Kenya

Tirfie, Helina Ayele
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Abstract The subject of donor funding has been one that is full of controversy. It has raised strong debates over the years and continues to be a topic of interest. It is argued more often than not that donor organizations place a lot of conditionalities before disbursing development funds to recipient organizations or countries. These conditionalities in most cases do not match with the objectives of the recipient organizations or governments and create avenues for disagreements. It has been the case that donor organizations normally prescribe particular programmes that they fund; and that this restricts the recipient organizations to programme choices that are already determined by the funding institutions. In the case of multi-donors funding of a particular organization, the practice may undermine funding effectiveness in the recipient organization as that may make it possible for different donors to start contradictory programmes or for multiple donors to duplicate projects, reducing the overall effectiveness of assistance. This study was designed to assess donor funding practices and its impacts on meeting development agenda in a particular organization. This was a case study of a multi donor funded educational organization, the African Virtual University (AVU), based in Nairobi, Kenya. Primary data formed the basis of this research and was collected through structured questionnaires. In addition, secondary data was also used to get background information on the organization. The study sought to answer three research questions regarding the perceived interests of varying stakeholders, how their interests affected the overall objectives and management of the AVU, and in turn how it affected the AVU’s contribution towards tertiary education in Africa. The results have shown that there were indeed conflicting interests among the various stakeholders that affected the overall achievement of the AVU’s goals as a result of lack of focus. In addition it was established that the main beneficiaries of the AVU programmes (students and African universities) were not often included in the process that determined the AVU’s overall direction. Furthermore, it was confirmed that the previous management of the AVU did not play a key role in balancing out the different interests and in directing the AVU towards achieving its overall goals even though respondents agreed that there was some degree of success in certain activities. This study also proved the hypothesis that strong and committed management contributes towards balancing out multi stakeholder interests eventually leading to success in achieving an organization’s objectives. The study has shed light on the practices of donor funding. Donors ought to be cognizant of funding needs of recipients rather than putting pressure on organizations to follow their ideas. Even though donor funding comes with certain conditionalities, I think there should be some degree of flexibility and compromise put in place so as to allow the beneficiaries’ input regarding their own development issues. Development funding can only bear fruits if the actual need of recipients on the ground is studied and taken into consideration. In addition, recipients should be actively involved in setting their own strategic objectives for maximum outcome. This study will serve as a blue print on donor funding and the challenges that come with it. The lessons learnt will guide other development organizations dependent on donor funding and dealing with similar issues to jump start their processes to improve their performance, achieve their goals and objectives and in turn contribute positively towards development of the continent.