Mapping Where Foreign Aid Comes From And Where It Goes

How does $168 billion in development money flow around the world? A useful new tool tracks the data.


You’d think that most foreign aid would be reserved for the world’s poorest countries, but that’s not actually true. For example, according to the advocacy group ONE, the U.S. only gives one-third of its foreign aid to the least developed countries in the world.

Where U.S. aid gets spent.

This is the kind of information you can unearth with a new tool, called D-Portal, run by a U.K. nonprofit called Development Initiatives. The site tracks development aid flows around the world, showing which countries are donating and receiving money and how it’s being spent. It shows the U.S. gives the most aid every year ($27 billion in 2013 or about 16% of the global total), followed by Japan ($24 billion) and the European Union ($16 billion).

The site uses data from the International Aid Transparency Index and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and gives a sense of whether inbound resources are leading to positive results. It’s a useful tool: You can create country profiles showing income and spending (here’s Nigeria, for example) and see how countries are performing on several development metrics (e.g. the number of residents who still live in poverty).

Where EU aid gets spent.

In a recent report, Development Initiatives said many social programs are severely under-funded in developing countries. Across all least developed countries, only 20% of costs are financed.

“Our research makes it clear that current social protection coverage in [least developed countries] is low, costs are not being met, and current levels of external finance are insufficient,” says Charles Lwanga Ntale, DI’s Africa director. “We hope our work will provide a valuable evidence base and useful analysis to feed discussions about the role and importance of social protection in poverty reduction and how we finance this crucially important area of development.”

You can explore the tool further here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.