At a glance
- France is the fifth-largest donor country, spending US$12.1 billion on official development assistance (ODA) in 2018. This represents 0.43% of the country’s gross national income (GNI). France disburses a large share of its ODA as loans. Because of this, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) new ‘grant-equivalent’ methodology — which is intended to better reflect “donor effort” by counting only the grant portion of loans as ODA — has a significant impact on France’s official funding figures.
- French President, Emmanuel Macron, has committed to increasing ODA levels to 0.55% of GNI by 2022. In line with this pledge, France’s development budget is set to reach €12.0 billion (US$14.2 billion) or 0.47% of GNI in 2020 before increasing to 0.50% in 2021 and 0.55% in 2022.
- According to the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID), two-thirds of France’s ODA increases will be channeled bilaterally. The French Development Agency (AFD) will expand its budget for grants from €200 million (US$236 million) in 2018 to €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) in 2022.
- According to the latest CICID conclusions (February 2018), France has five development priority areas: 1) international stability, 2) climate change, 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. It provides grants mainly to 19 countries (almost all in sub-Saharan Africa), while relying on ODA loans in emerging economies.
- In Q1 2020, the government put forward a new draft Program and Orientation Law. This bill aims to enshrine the projected ODA expansion into law (requiring France to reach its goal of spending 0.55% of its GNI on ODA by 2022), provides strategic direction for French development policy between 2020 and 2022, and puts forward new indicators of impact.
- France’s political focus on gender equality may increase over the next years, as outlined in the gender equality strategy for 2018 to 2022. In 2020, France co-hosts the Generation Equality Forum organized by UN Women, where Action Coalitions aim to provide incentives for additional financial and political commitments on key gender-related issues.
- 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.
- ODA trends
France is the fifth-largest donor; ODA is expected to increase to 0.55% by 2022
France was the fifth-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor country in 2018, spending US$12.1 billion or 0.43% of its GNI on ODA. These numbers are based on the new methodology for measuring ODA loans which the OECD DAC applies to reporting from 2018 onward. According to this new methodology, called ‘grant-equivalent’, only the grant portion loans is counted as ODA. This is intended to make ODA more reflective of each donor’s “effort”. Because France disburses a large share of its ODA as loans, the shift in methodology has an important impact on France’s funding figures for 2018: France’s ODA is 6% lower under the grant-equivalent methodology than it was under the previous ‘cash-flow’ methodology.
To allow for comparison over time, the OECD still publishes net ODA disbursements according to the cash-flow methodology. According to these figures, between 2017 and 2018, France’s net ODA rose by 7% and ODA is set to continue increasing.
France’s development budget for 2019 is set at €10.8 billion (US$12.8 billion), rising to €12.0 billion (US$14.2 billion) in 2020. This represents 0.44% and 0.47% of the country’s projected GNI respectively and is in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to spend 0.55% of GNI by the end of his term in 2022. Despite pressure on public spending, Macron’s government detailed the trajectory of further ODA increases in a budget bill debated in the first quarter of 2020: following the funding increases in 2019 and 2020, the ODA to GNI ratio will continue to grow to 0.50% in 2021 before reaching 0.55% in 2022. The budget bill has been delayed due to COVID-19.
According to the 2020 budget law, additional funding will come from an 18% increase (from €3.3 billion to €3.9 billion or US$4.6 billion) in France’s core ODA resources, in particular, the two main ODA-related budget lines: Program 209, managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Program 110, managed by the Ministry of Economy and Finances (see ‘Budget structure’). Together, these budget lines account for almost one third of French ODA. In recent years, the government has relied more heavily on innovative funding sources, such as the financial transaction tax (FTT), to fund its development programs.
France is a pioneer in using innovative financing mechanisms to fund development. In 2020, the French government will channel 32% (an estimated €528 million or US$623 million) of the revenues from its national FTT towards ODA. The FTT was introduced in 2012 to generate more resources for solidarity purposes, including climate programs. In past years, the share of FTT proceeds allocated for development was higher, reaching 50% in 2018 because of strong parliamentary support. The French government is pushing for a FTT to be implemented at the European level to fund ODA and the fight against climate change. Domestically, it also uses proceeds from an airline ticket tax, of which €210 million (US$248 million) is allocated to development and climate change every year.
Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the grant-equivalent measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.
- Policy priorities
Education, climate change, and global health are focus areas; security concerns shape priority-setting
In February 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 five areas: 1) international stability, 2) climate change, 3) education, 4) gender equality, and 5) global health
2018 CICID conclusions outlined five key development priorities that France has followed:
- 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 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, Niger). France’s development agency (AFD) has released key facts, figures and an interactive map related to its interventions in the Sahel region, including through the Sahel Allience (see here). A total of €9.0 billion (US$10.6 billion, from all partners) will be disbursed through the Sahel Alliance between 2018 to 2022.
Related to its growing efforts in conflict-affected and fragile states, France is increasingly focused on projects at the intersection of humanitarian assistance and development. By 2022, the government plans to dedicate €500 million (US$590 million) per year to urgent humanitarian action and post-crisis stabilization. In March 2017, France created the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund, a facility for alleviating vulnerability and responding to crises, managed by the AFD. The facility provides €250 million (US$296 million) per year to countries in crisis, post-crisis, or otherwise vulnerable situations.
Climate change is one of France’s a longstanding priorities. The country committed to increasing financing for climate-related programs by €2.0 billion (US$2.4 billion) per year between 2015 and 2020. This increase will be achieved in great part through an increase in annual volume of the French Development Agency (AFD). In 2018, AFD disbursed €4.8 billion (US$5.7 billion) to climate-related programs reaching its objective to have 50% of its financing for climate-related programing. Funding for climate-adaptation programs is also set to increase to €1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) per year by 2020. In total, €3.0 billion (US$3.5 billion) of this funding over the 2016 to 2020 period will be dedicated specifically to renewable energies in Africa. President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May 2017, has bolstered the country’s commitment to tackling climate change by making it a flagship issue of his Presidency. France hosted the Green Climate Fund’s first replenishment conference in 2019 and pledged €1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) to the organization for 2020 to 2023.
President Emmanuel Macron has elevated global education as a priority of his government’s development policy. In February 2018, France co-hosted the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference in Dakar, Senegal, which raised a total of US$2.3 billion in donor contributions for 2018 to 2020. France committed €200 million (US$260 million using GPE’s official conversion) over three years to the GPE Fund, which will be accompanied by €100 million (US$118 million) in bilateral funding for basic education channeled through the French Development Agency (AFD). As of December 2019, France was the eleventh-largest contributor in GPE’s history with US$203 million in cumulative contributions.
Gender equality is a cross-cutting priority of the current French government. The 2018 CICID set a target for 50% of annual AFD commitments to include gender equality as significant or principal goal. In July 2020, under UN Women’s leadership, France co-hosts 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 Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) sixth replenishment in 2019 and pledged €1.3 billion (US$1.4 billion) including an additional US$60 million as a final push to reach the US$14 billion target. This is a 20% increase compared to its contributions for the previous pledging period (2016 to 2020). France is also a large contributor to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and UNITAID.
- ODA breakdown
France channels most of its ODA bilaterally, but is also a strong supporter of multilaterals
According to OECD data, France delivered 62% of its ODA bilaterally in 2018. This was slightly above the average of 59% among members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Of this, 74% was disbursed through public sector institutions (DAC average: 48%). This is largely due to the significant role of the French Development Agency (the AFD) in France’s development cooperation. The AFD has a dual status: It is both an implementing agency and a development bank.
In 2018, the AFD made a record €11.4 billion (US$13.4 billion) in new commitments, an increase of more than €1.0 billion compared to 2017. The government plans to further expand the agency’s financing capacity. According to the February 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 2018, France’s bilateral ODA stood at US$9.5 billion, a 4% increase from 2017. The largest share went to education: It constituted 13% 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 cash transfers from France to a recipient country. Bilateral funding for education is the perfect example: In 2018 75% (US$951 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 2018, France spent 8% (US$802 million) of its bilateral ODA on hosting refugees, up 22% from 2017 (US$658 million). Funding for infrastructure stood at 8% (US$733 million), followed by energy at 7% (US$676 million), and water and sanitation at 7% (US$673 million).
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 2018, loans represented half of France’s bilateral ODA (51%, DAC average: 9%). Under the OECD’s new ‘grant-equivalent’ measurement system, only 31% of France’s loans were counted as ODA in 2018. In light of the OECD’s methodological change, the government has committed to increasing the share of grants within its ODA, especially for its 19 priority countries (see below). Part of the AFD’s overall funding increases will serve to increase the proportion of grants within its portfolio. Currently, AFD provides the vast share of its funding as loans (83% in 2018) and takes part in equity investments/financial guarantees (5%). In 2018, grants made up 11% of AFD’s commitments, including debt-relief operations and budget support.
France focuses its grants on sub-Saharan Africa and its loans on MICs; increased focus on Sahel region
France places a strong focus on sub-Saharan Africa, allocating almost one third (28%) of its bilateral ODA to the region in 2018. This focus is likely to continue, particularly as France increasingly prioritizes the Sahel region (see ‘Policy priorities’).
France takes a differentiated approach to ODA depending on the partner country’s level of income: Loans focus largely on emerging economies, whereas grants are primarily allocated to low-income economies.
For ODA grants, France has identified 19 fragile and least-developed countries to focus on (‘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, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, the Gambia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. With the exception of the Gambia, they are all francophone. 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 of France’s emphasis on loans to deliver ODA, middle-income countries (MICs) receive the largest share of France’s bilateral ODA, amounting to 63% in 2018. 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 (38% or US$5.8 billion in 2018). Almost half of this consists of binding contributions to the European Union (45% in 2018). France’s multilateral engagement strategy for 2017 to 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 (Global Fund) 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 to 2021 multilateral engagement strategy.
In addition to core contributions, France also provides 2% of its ODA to multilaterals as earmarked funding for a specific sectors or countries (US$256 million), which is reported as bilateral ODA (DAC average: 14%).
- Main actors
President has a key role; decision-making is fragmented, as several institutions are involved
The President (‘La République en Marche’; LRM), Emmanuel Macron (elected May 2017), determines overall guidelines and engages in development issues through high-level commitments. The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe (since May 2017), 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 an August 2018 report on the modernization of France’s development assistance, France will establish a new coordination body called the Development Council. Unlike the CICID, which is headed by the Prime Minister, the Development Council will be supervised by the French President and is expected to meet at least twice a year to make strategic decisions on France’s development policy. The Development Council has not yet had a meeting and there is no clarity on any upcoming engagements. The CICID will continue to gather ministers engaged in French development policy to adopt strategic orientations.
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 the Economy and Finance (Finance Ministry), under Bruno Le Maire’s leadership. Since 2018, the MAE, liaising with other ministries, has overseen the coordination a yearly report to the President and Prime Minister on the implementation of planned ODA increases.
FRANCE'S DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION SYSTEM
The French Development Agency (AFD), currently headed by Director-General Rémy Rioux (his mandate was renewed in 2019), is France’s implementing agency. AFD has a dual status as a public development agency and a development bank, with 17 regional divisions, 85 local offices, and 2,650 employees. AFD develops projects according to partner-country demands. It 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.
The French Development Agency (AFD) has a dual status as a public agency and a development bank.
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 a period of 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 in 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, gathering 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: 4% of bilateral ODA was channeled through CSOs in 2018 (Development Assistance Committee, DAC average: 18%). This is likely to change, because in 2018 CICID conclusions, the government committed to double funding channeled through NGOs between 2017 and 2022.
- How is the French ODA budget structured?
Two main envelopes for France’s development budget make up the ‘ODA mission’
French ODA (€12.0 billion or US$14.2 billion in 2020) stems from two main sources: the general budget (€8.3 billion, or US$9.8 billion) and other sources not included in the general budget (€3.7 billion, or US$4.4 billion). The latter mainly includes contributions to the European Commission and multilateral organizations, funding generated through the financial transaction tax (FTT, €528 million in 2020), the airline ticket tax (€210 million in 2020), and debt-relief mechanisms.
2020 ODA budget overview
ODA from the general budget 8,265 9,754 1) ODA mission (excluding loans) 2,917 3,443 2) Bilateral AFD loans 1,848 2,181 3) Instruments supporting the private sector (loans, participations) 663 782 4) Others, notably: 2,837 3,348 Education fees & research 1,157 1,365 Refugee costs 779 919 Research 336 397 State Foreign action 388 458 ODA loans from resources outside of the general budget 201 237 1) Concessional loans from Treasury 181 214 2) Multilateral loans 20 24 Debt cancelations contracts (disbursements) 357 421 ODA through EU contributions 1,405 1,658 Debt relief 350 413 Airline tax 210 248 Financial transactions tax (FTT) 528 623 Total state budget (budgetary effort) 11,316 13,355 Local authorities and water agencies 138 163 AFD Administrative fees 419 494 Fund capitalization 120 142 Total ODA 11,993 14,154
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 €2,1 billion (US$2,5 billion) for 2020, a 6% increase over 2019 levels. It encompasses four main funding envelopes:
- Bilateral-cooperation: €844 million (US$997 million), mainly includes transfers to AFD (for bilateral grants, funding to CSOs, and technical assistance), Debt-Reduction Development Contracts (C2D), the MAE-managed Priority Solidarity Fund (FSP),
- Voluntary multilateral contributions to UN agencies and other multilaterals: €292 million (US$344 million),
- Contributions to the European Development Fund (EDF): €842 million (US$994 million), and
- Staff costs: €161million (US$190 million).
The Finance Ministry’s Program 110 (‘economic and financial development aid’) is set at €1,1 billion (US$1,4 billion) for 2020, a 6% increase over 2019 levels. It includes three main funding envelopes:
- Multilateral assistance to international financial institutions (IFIs): €712 million (US$840 million),
- Bilateral assistance (mostly for loans managed by the French Development Agency [AFD]): €340 million (US$401 million), and
- Transfers to AFD and IFIs to reimburse them for funds lost when debt managed by them was cancelled: €93 million (US$110 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 2020, €388 million (US$458 million) was allocated to this program (same as 2019). Further, a portion of the debt relieved through the Debt-reduction Development Contracts (C2D) implemented by the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (Finance Ministry) and the French Development Agency (AFD) with some partner countries, is allocated to sectors related to development, such as health and agriculture. For 2020, €357 million (US$421 million) was allocated for these contracts.
The ODA increases announced in February 2018 will be channeled bilaterally, mainly through loans disbursed by the French Development Agency (AFD) and funded through Programs 110 and 209. The AFD’s bilateral loans increased from €1.4 billion in 2019 to €1.8 billion in 2020.
In 2020, the French government allocated 32% of the revenues from its FTT (estimated €528 million or US$623 million). 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.
- Budget process
Amounts allocated to main ODA budget lines are determined in June and July
- 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 (PM) sends out budget guidelines: Around May, the PM sends three-year budget guidelines (‘lettres de cadrage’) to each Ministry. These guidelines include general orientations of the budget, such as objectives regarding 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 ODA.
- PM sends expenditure ceilings: Usually by mid-July, the PM 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 decide 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 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.