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ICAI review of DFID’s transport and urban infrastructure investments


Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Transport and urban infrastructure are key ingredients for economic growth and poverty reduction. Rural roads and bridges give poor people access to vital public services and markets to sell their goods, while highways, railways and ports link economically deprived areas to national and regional trading opportunities and can help reduce the prices of goods for consumers. Cities in developing countries will gain almost two billion new residents in the next two decades, putting urban infrastructure – including public transport, waste management and energy supply – under enormous strain. Growing cities can be engines of economic growth, but without well-planned infrastructure they can generate poverty and deprivation.

Experts agree that investment in transport and urban infrastructure in developing countries falls well below the level required to support economic growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This review examines DFID’s investments on transport and urban infrastructure, which over 2015 and 2016 consisted of 57 programmes with combined budgets of £3.9 billion.

The review found that:

  • DFID’s transport and urban infrastructure work clearly supports three out of four strategic objectives in the UK aid strategy: promoting global prosperity, strengthening resilience and response to crisis, and tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable.
  • DFID has identified its comparative advantage alongside other development actors but its strategy needs further articulation, including how its infrastructure work fits alongside other UK aid spending departments’ activities.
  • While some of DFID’s transport and urban infrastructure work has a pro-poor focus, its larger economic growth-focused programmes lack a systematic approach to including the poorest and most vulnerable groups.
  • Programme performance has been mixed, with some strong results offset by frequent delays.
  • DFID’s research and technical assistance has been very effective, in influencing both host country and multilateral programmes.
  • DFID relies on the safeguarding policies of its multilateral partners, but is not active enough in ensuring that these are effectively implemented.
  • DFID is increasing its engagement with China on infrastructure issues, but could do more to help partner countries make informed infrastructure finance choices.

Media Coverage: The Sun (and DFID’s response), Express

Read the report

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