Open aid: Mapping over 100.000 German aid projects from the last 10 years

2/12/2013 | Christian Kreutz
Mapping German developing aid flows

There are practically only two options of German developing aid figures one can obtain; either highly aggregated data from the German Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation, or complicated and academic designed pages such as aidflows from the OECD. (Open Germain Aid) is in this regard different. Here, instead of first learning how to use the app, you can wander easily through figures about beneficiary countries from German aid and other individual projects.

Developing aid is, from a financial point of view, a large sector. The OECD countries alone spent 129 billion dollars in 2011 on ODA contributions. Large sums are distributed to thousands of organizations and for many projects. This tax money transactions are not always transparent. There is no overview of who is doing what, when and where in any single developing country. That this leads to inefficient spending is not a secret.

The ministry does not publish its own data

I used the open accessible data set from the Creditor Reporting System (OECD) for the implementation of the website. By the way, the complete raw data set is a bit hidden; click on the above link in the menu on export and then on "related files". Ironically, the ministry only delivers the data about a year later, but does not publish it on its own website. But that should change now; this spring, after a long delay, the ministry announced the publication of first data by the IATI standard. Better information in shorter cycles should be delivered this year. While analyzing data for this project, I realized that the historic perspective of data is particularly interesting.

Over 100.000 activities in the last 10 years

That is why I have included the Federal German aid activities for the last ten years in the website. So, there is an own description for every beneficiary country of German development aid, which describes and shows in detail every activity per development sectors like in Burkina Faso. The data from the projects also appears to be of insufficient quality; the titles of the projects are too general, in another language or partially incomplete. In addition, there is almost no information on the recipient organizations. The donor institutions are displayed with acronyms such as LG or Found, and are like in the case of the GIZ money, not completely traceable.

It is important for the website to obtain transparent overviews from different perspectives, so one can easily analyze, for example, in which sectors was money invested in the last years and where lie the sectors for the German development cooperation. Are the aid funds allocated for the adequate demands of the developing countries, or are they conducted from foreign or economic political interests? Are the expenditures sustainable, or are they done as a sudden single investment? The data not always provide a direct answer, but should at least help to identify the trends and introduce questions.

Combination of records

It will be exciting when other records are added. Thanks to the Open Data Initiative of the World Bank, who for example, include development indicators. These indicators show at a glance where do most important problems lie in particular countries. One can compare, if German expenditures are matching these needs. There is no question that the comparison is a bit weak and more records are necessary to be able to better retrace the expenditures for the sectors. And exactly in this direction is where I think it is import to go.


Therefore, a commitment to open data must come from German organizations for development cooperation. Unfortunately, at the moment not a single non-governmental organisation is a model to follow. With some exceptions, there is almost no open finance data. At least a freedom information request has revealed an overview of all ministry funded organizations in 2011. I hope that becomes an inspiration for such demands.