France

At a glance

Funding trends

  • France is the fifth-largest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor country, spending US$14.1 billion (current prices; US$13.5 billion in constant 2019 prices) on official development assistance (ODA) in 2020 or 0.53% of the country’s gross national income (GNI).
  • President, Emmanuel Macron, is committed to increasing ODA levels to 0.55% of GNI by 2022. Due to a decision to maintain the planned increase in ODA volume despite the recession and to an increase of debt reliefs, France’s development budget is set to surpass that target, reaching €17.2 billion (US$19.2 billion) or 0.69% of GNI in 2021.
  • France's ODA has been increasing since 2014 and grew by 11% between 2019 and 2020 (+US$1.3 billion in real terms). This increase was driven by higher levels of bilateral funding and by France’s COVID-19 related spending, including lending.

Strategic priorities

  • France’s development policy priorities: 1) international stability, 2) climate, 3) education, 4) gender equality, and 5) global health. Global education and the fight against climate change are flagship priorities of the government.
  • In overall foreign policy, France prioritizes security and combating terrorism with a strong focus on the Sahel region of Africa, where development projects accompany France’s military and political interventions.
  • Geographically, France takes a differentiated approach to allocating its ODA, providing grants mainly to 19 countries (almost all in sub-Saharan Africa), and providing ODA loans to emerging economies.
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Outlook

  • The French Parliament aims to reach a target of 0.7% of GNI to ODA by 2025. During a debate on a new development bill, the lower chamber of the French Parliament, the National Assembly, adopted the aim to reach the target of 0.7% of GNI to ODA by 2025. France's ODA reached 0.44% of GNI in 2019 and should reach 0.55% of GNI in 2022, according to the financial trajectory confirmed by the bill.
  • France will host the Generation Equality Forum from June 30-July 2, 2021: The Forum will gather governments, corporations, philanthropies, CSOs, and international organizations to adopt a series of political and financial commitments for the next five years around the themes of 1) gender-based violence; 2) economic justice and rights; 3) bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights; 4) feminist action for climate justice; 5) technology and innovation for gender equality; and 6) feminist movements and leadership. France will sit on the leadership team of the Action Coalition for bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • REACTing, a multi-disciplinary collaborative network of French research institutions, plays a key role in the global response to the COVID-19 outbreak. REACTing will select and fund 20 immediate impact projects against COVID-19 and support capacity building and hospital preparedness in five African countries.

Policy Priorities

Education, climate change, and global health are focus areas; security concerns shape priorities

n 2018, France’s Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID) — the body in charge of setting the strategic direction of France’s development cooperation —reaffirmed its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the protection of global public goods. In line with these priorities, the CICID committed to strengthening France’s efforts in the areas of 1) international stability, 2) climate change, 3) education, 4) gender equality, and 5) global health.

 


2018 CICID conclusions outlined five key development priorities:

  • Peace and stability: Increasing focus on development programs that promote peace and stability to fight terrorism; focus is on the Sahel region
  • Climate change: Increase in annual funding in partner countries; doubling of France’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund during the 2019 Replenishment hosted by France, with €1.5 billion
  • Education: Co-chair of the GPE Funding Conference in February 2018; total pledge of €300 million for education, both through the fund and bilaterally
  • Health: Key to multilateral engagement; successful host of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria sixth replenishment in October 2019
  • Innovative financing: Pioneering innovative financing for development;  draws resources for development from  financial transaction tax (FTT) and airline tax

Within its overall foreign policy, France is committed to fighting terrorism and is increasingly using development cooperation to promote peace and stability in partner countries. This is reflected in France’s focus on the Sahel region of Africa, where development projects accompany the country’s military and political interventions.

In July of 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Sahel Alliance (Alliance avec le Sahel) — a joint initiative of France, Germany, the EU, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the UN Development Program (UNDP) — to better coordinate support for development and security in the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). A total of €9.0 billion (US$10.1 billion, from all partners) will be disbursed through the Sahel Alliance between 2018 to 2022.

France is increasingly focused on projects at the intersection of humanitarian assistance and development. By 2022, the government plans to dedicate €500 million (US$560 million) per year to urgent humanitarian action and post-crisis stabilization. In March of 2017, France launched the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund, an AFD-managed crisis response facility. The facility provides €250 million (US$280 million) per year to countries in crisis, post-crisis, or in otherwise vulnerable situations.

The fight against climate change is one of France’s longstanding priorities. The country committed to increasing financing for climate-related programs by €2.0 billion (US$2.2 billion) per year between 2015 and 2020. This increase will be achieved in great part through an increase in the annual volume of the French Development Agency (AFD). Since his election in 2017, Macron has further bolstered the country’s commitment to tackling climate change, making it a central issue of his presidency. In 2019, AFD disbursed €6.1 billion (US$6.8 billion) to climate-related programs, reaching its target of allocating 50% of its financing to climate-related programming. France hosted the Green Climate Fund’s first replenishment conference in 2019 and pledged €1.5 billion (US$1.7 billion) to the organization for 2020 to 2023.

Macron has elevated global education on France’s development agenda. France co-hosted the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference in Dakar in 2018 and is the 11th-largest contributor to the GPE (US$293 million since 2005), with a €200 million (US$224 million) pledge for 2018-2020. This allocation was complemented by the announcement of an additional €100 million (US$112 million) in grants for education to be disbursed bilaterally by AFD over the next three years. Funding for the GPE is reported as bilateral ODA. In 2019, the GPE opened an office in Paris.

Gender equality is a cross-cutting priority of the current French government. As host of the 2019 G7 Summit, France committed to adopting a ‘feminist diplomacy’, to promote women's rights globally. The 2018 CICID set a target for 50% of annual AFD commitments to include gender equality as a significant or principal goal. In 2021, under UN Women’s leadership, France is co-hosting the Generation Equality Forum with Mexico aimed at taking stock of progress and setting the agenda for concrete action to realize gender equality before 2030.

Global health remains a key focus. France’s funding in this sector is largely channeled through multilateral organizations. France hosted the sixth replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2019 and pledged €1.3 billion (US$1.4 billion), including an additional US$60 million as a final push to help reach the replenishment’s US$14 billion target. France is also a large contributor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and UNITAID, an agency supporting global health innovations with emphasis on HIV, TB and Malaria. During the Vaccine Global Summit in June of 2020, France pledged €250 million (US$280 million) for Gavi’s 2021-2026 period and €100 million (US$112 million) for COVID-19 Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), bringing France’s total pledge to US$665 million for the period including existing pledges.

ODA Breakdown

France channels most of its ODA bilaterally but is also a strong supporter of multilateral organizations

France delivered 66% of its official development assistance (ODA) bilaterally in 2019, slightly above the average of 59% among members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Of this, 84% was disbursed through public sector institutions (DAC average: 47%), largely due to the significant role of the French Development Agency (AFD) in France’s development cooperation. The AFD has dual status as both an implementing agency and a development bank.

In 2020, the AFD made €12.1 billion (US$13.5 billion) in new commitments. The government plans to further expand the agency’s financing capacity; according to the 2018 meeting of France’s Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID), two-thirds of the ODA increase planned until 2022 will be channeled through AFD.

France’s largest bilateral funding area is education; refugee costs are increasing

In 2019, France’s bilateral ODA stood at US$9.7 billion, a 5% increase from 2018. The largest share went to education, constituting 14% of French bilateral ODA (US$1.3 billion). However, in line with OECD reporting practices — the bilateral ODA figures reported by France also include a range of other items categorized as grants that do not represent actual transfers from France to a recipient country. Bilateral funding for education is the perfect example: In 2019, 66% (US$874 million) of France’s bilateral ODA for education covered the costs of students from partner countries studying in France, meaning that the vast majority of these funds did not go to projects implemented in partner countries.

In 2019, France spent 13% (US$1.2 billion) of its bilateral ODA on hosting refugees, a sharp 57% increase from 2018 (US$772 million). Funding for infrastructure stood at 10% (US$956 million), followed by energy at 10% (US$930 million)

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France provides much of its bilateral ODA as loans because loans provide a relatively easy way to increase overall ODA while minimizing the impact on actual budget transfers. In 2019, loans represented almost half of France’s bilateral ODA (46%, DAC average: 8%). Part of the AFD’s overall funding increases will serve to increase the proportion of grants within its portfolio. In 2019, grants made up 18% of AFD’s commitments, including debt-relief operations and budget support. The remaining share of AFD’s funding was provided as loans and equity investments/financial guarantees. A 2019 OECD DAC peer review of France’s development assistance program noted that “the grant element of French ODA loans remained below the DAC recommended grant element for loans to [the lowest income countries]. In fact, the grant element actually decreased from one year to the next even though this had already been identified as a weakness of French co-operation during the previous last DAC Peer Review in 2018.”

France focuses its grants on the Sahel region and its loans on middle-income countries

In 2019, France allocated 29% of its bilateral ODA to the ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (SSA; meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa according to the African Union’s designations) above the DAC average of 22%. This focus is likely to continue as France increasingly prioritizes the Sahel region (see France’s ‘Policy priorities’).

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France takes a differentiated approach to ODA depending on the partner country’s income level, providing loans primarily to emerging economies and grants to low-income economies.

France focuses its grants on 19 fragile and low- and middle-income countries (‘Pays Pauvres Prioritaires’, also known as ‘PPPs’), almost all in ‘sub-Saharan Africa’. These include Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, the Gambia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Except for Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, all were formerly colonized by France. France seeks to allocate at least half of all grants and two-thirds of AFD grants to these countries.

France’s ODA loans focus on emerging economies. Because the majority of France’s ODA is delivered as loans, middle-income countries (MICs) receive the largest share of France’s bilateral ODA, amounting to 60% in 2019. All top-10 recipients of France’s bilateral ODA are middle-income countries (see figure).

France is a strong contributor to multilaterals, with a focus on health

Core contributions to multilaterals account for more than one-third of France’s total ODA (34% or US$4.9 billion in 2019), of which half are binding contributions to the European Union (53% in 2019). France’s multilateral engagement strategy for 2017-2021, ‘For a high-performing development assistance that serves the most vulnerable’, outlines three main objectives: 1) serve the most vulnerable, 2) align with the goals of the 2030 global agenda, and 3) support France’s vision of sustainable development.

Health is a key sector of France’s multilateral engagement, particularly when it comes to vertical funds. It is a strong supporter of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and hosted its 2020 to 2022 replenishment in October 2019. France is also a large contributor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and to UNITAID (see Sector: ‘Global health’). All three of these organizations are outlined as key partners in France’s 2017-2021 multilateral engagement strategy.

In addition to core contributions, France also provides 3% of its ODA to multilaterals as earmarked funding for specific sectors or countries (US$362 million), which is reported as bilateral ODA (DAC average: 14%).

Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the cash-flow basis measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on France, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non-ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.

Main Actors

President plays a key role; decision-making is fragmented among several institutions

President Emmanuel Macron (elected May 2017), determines overall guidelines for development policy and makes high-level commitments. The Prime Minister, Jean Castex (in office since July 2020), chairs the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID), which sets long-term strategic priorities and meets on an ad-hoc basis.

According to a report submitted by Member of Parliament (MP) Hervé Berville in August of 2018 to former Prime Minister Philippe on the modernization of France’s development assistance, France shall establish a new coordination body, the Development Council, to possibly replace or complement the CICID. Unlike the CICID, the French President will supervise the Development Council, which first met in December of 2020, to take strategic decisions on France’s development policy.

Within the government, two ministries jointly manage French development policy: the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MAE), led by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Finance Ministry), under Bruno Le Maire’s leadership. Since 2018, the MAE, liaising with other ministries, has overseen the coordination of a yearly report to the President and Prime Minister on the implementation of planned increases to official development assistance (ODA).

France Organisation Chart

The French Development Agency (AFD), currently headed by Director-General Rémy Rioux, is France’s implementing agency. AFD has dual status as a public development agency and a development bank. It has 85 country offices and 3,000 employees. AFD develops projects according to partner-country demands and is responsible for the formulation, management, and supervision of projects. The MAE is consulted and involved in various stages of policy development and project monitoring. In practice, AFD benefits from a large degree of autonomy to allocate funding to specific sectors depending on recipient countries’ requests. It receives funds from the MAE and the Ministry of Finance, but over half of its resources stem from bonds issued on international capital markets.  

Bilateral programming is steered by the MAE and the Ministry of Economy and Finance and in collaboration with partner countries. Embassies develop ‘Partnership Framework Documents’ (‘Documents Cadre de Partenariat’ or ‘DCPs’), detailing the work of all French actors involved in development programs in the partner country. They provide overall guidance for French cooperation over three years for up to three priority sectors per country. DCPs are only mandatory for France’s 19 priority countries.

The French Parliament’s two chambers, the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and the Senate (Sénat) scrutinize, propose amendments to, and vote on the budget. Members of Parliament (MPs) can reallocate spending within budget lines but cannot change the budget lines’ overall amounts. They usually receive information on individual budget lines shortly before the vote, which limits their influence; however, MPs can influence overall ODA levels by allocating large extra-budgetary resources (resources that are not integrated within ministries' budget lines) to development cooperation. This happened in budget negotiations in 2016 and 2017: MPs amended the government's draft budget to increase proceeds from the financial transaction tax allocated to development assistance. Similar proposals were put forward for the last three budgets but were rejected by a majority of MPs.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) play an influential role in France’s development policy as advisory bodies. Coordination SUD is the biggest CSO umbrella organization, convening more than 170 French development non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Its board of directors meets annually with the AFD’s director.

In 2013, the government created a ‘National Council for Development and International Solidarity’ (CNDSI) gathering representatives from CSOs, labor unions, local authorities, research institutes, and MPs. The Council is chaired by the MAE and meets twice a year to debate issues regarding French development policy.

CSOs currently play a relatively minor role in implementing French ODA: 5% of bilateral ODA was channeled through CSOs in 2019, an increase from 3% in 2017, and far below the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 20% in both years. In the 2018 CICID conclusions, however, the government committed to doubling funding channeled through NGOs between 2017 and 2022.

Budget Structure

Two main envelopes for France’s development budget make up the ‘ODA mission’

French official development assistance (ODA; €17.2 billion or US$19.2 billion in 2021) stems from the general budget (€9.0 billion, or US$10.0 billion) and other sources (€8.2 billion, or US$9.2 billion). The latter mainly includes debt relief mechanisms, contributions to the European Commission and multilateral organizations, and funding generated through the financial transaction tax (FTT, €528 million or US$591 million in 2021), and the airline ticket tax (€210 million or US$235 million in 2021). According to the ODA budget bill, debt relief should amount to €4.4 billion (US$5.0 billion) in 2021 compared to €350 million (US$392 million) in 2020. This large increase is due to the accounting of debt cancelations, debt rescheduling, and debt relief already planned under the Paris Club. This amount could grow further if new debt relief is agreed upon in 2021 following the COVID-19 crisis.

2021 ODA budget overview

millions

millions
US$

ODA from the general budget 8,969 10,040
1) ODA mission (excluding loans) 3,624 4,057
2) Bilateral AFD loans 2,069 2,316
3) Instruments supporting the private sector (loans, participations) 229 256
4) Others, notably: 3,047 3,411
          Education fees & research 825 923
          Refugee costs 852 954
          Migrant's health costs 185 207
          Research 339 379
          State Foreign action 375 420
ODA loans from resources outside of the general budget 427 478
1) Concessional loans from Treasury 177 198
2) Multilateral loans 250 280
Debt cancelations contracts (disbursements) 132 148
ODA through EU contributions 1,901 2,128
Debt relief 4,426 4,954
Airline tax 210 235
Financial transactions tax (FTT) 528 591
Total state budget (budgetary effort) 16,593 18,574
Local authorities and water agencies 134 150
AFD Administrative fees 429 480
Total ODA 17,157 19,205

The two largest ODA programs of the general budget compose the ‘ODA mission’: Program 110 of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (Finance Ministry) and program 209 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE).

MAE’s Program 209 (‘Solidarity with developing countries’) is set at €2.3 billion (US$2.6 billion) for 2021, a 17% increase over 2020 levels. It encompasses four main funding envelopes:

  1. Bilateral-cooperation: €1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion), mainly including transfers to the French Development Agency (AFD; for bilateral grants, funding to CSOs, and technical assistance), Debt-Reduction Development Contracts (C2D), the MAE-managed Priority Solidarity Fund (FSP)
  2. Voluntary multilateral contributions to United Nations (UN) agencies and other multilaterals: €373 million (US$418 million)
  3. Contributions to the European Development Fund (EDF): €714 million (US$799 million)
  4. Staff costs: €162 million (US$182 million)

The Finance Ministry’s Program 110 (‘Economic and financial development aid’) is set at €1.5 billion (US$1.7 billion) for 2021, a 30% increase over 2020 levels. Of this, there are three main funding envelopes:

  1. Multilateral assistance to international financial institutions (IFIs): €969 million (US$1,084 million);
  2. Bilateral assistance (mostly for loans managed by the French Development Agency [AFD]): €409 million (US$458 million); and
  3. Transfers to AFD and IFIs to reimburse funds lost in debt cancellation: €97 million (US$109 million).

Other ODA-relevant programs sourced from the general budget include the Finance Ministry’s Program 853, which is used to transfer additional funds to the AFD, allowing it to provide concessional loans to partner countries. For 2021, €258 million (US$289 million) was allocated to this. In 2021, Program 365 (‘Strengthening the capital of AFD’) was established to reinforce the funds of the AFD set at €953 million or US$1.1 billion. Further, a portion of the debt relieved through the Debt-reduction Development Contracts (C2D) implemented by the Economy and Finance Ministry and the AFD with some partner countries, is allocated to sectors related to development, such as health and agriculture. For 2021, €24 million (US$27 million) was allocated for these contracts.   

In 2021, the French government is set to allocate 32% of the revenues from its FTT (€528 million or US$591 million) for development assistance. In past years, the share of the FTT proceeds allocated to development was higher, reaching 50% in 2018 as a result of strong parliamentary support in 2016 and 2017.

The budget allocated to EU instruments will slightly increase from €1.4 billion (US$1.6 billion) to €1.9 billion (US$2.1 billion) in 2021 as a result of the budgetization of the EDF.

Budget Process

Allocations for main ODA budget lines are determined in June and July

Budget process

  • The Finance Ministry defines general budgetary orientations: From February to April, administrative and technical staff within the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (Finance Ministry) and other ministries develop the economic forecast and measures to define the general orientation of budget policy.
  • Prime Minister sends out budget guidelines: Around May, the Prime Minister sends three-year budget guidelines (‘lettres de cadrage’) to each ministry. These guidelines include general orientations of the budget, such as objectives regarding the budget deficit, staff payrolls, and major spending changes.
  • MAE develops its budget request: In parallel, around May/June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) starts developing its budget request for the following year, in consultation with the Finance Ministry. Negotiations and arbitrations between the different ministries take place.
  • Debate on budgetary orientations: From June until mid-July, the government presents its general budgetary guidelines to Parliament, and the ‘debate on budgetary orientation’ takes place. This provides an opportunity for CSOs to advocate for funding increases for official development assistance (ODA).
  • PM sends expenditure ceilings: Usually by mid-July, the Prime Minister presents expenditure ceilings (‘lettres-plafond’) to each Minister, fixing the maximum allocation for each major public-policy area. This includes funding for the ‘ODA mission’ (‘Politique francaise en faveur du développement’), jointly managed by the MAE (Program 209) and the Finance Ministry (Program 110).
  • Ministries review their budget requests and determine allocations: From mid-July to October, the MAE and the Finance Ministry review their ODA budget requests in light of the expenditure ceiling and develop budget documents. Allocations Programs 209 and 110 and budget lines within these programs are decided upon.
  • Parliament examines, amends, and votes on the budget bill: In October, the government submits its draft budget bill to Parliament, which has 70 days to examine, amend, and vote on it. After being voted on by the plenary, the budget is signed by the President before Christmas.