Last updated: September 27, 2023
France was the fourth largest DAC donor country in 2022, with total ODA amounting to US$15.9 billion. This represents a 3% increase compared to 2021, where ODA totaled US$15.5 billion, with France overtaking the UK as fourth largest donor.
When ranked by prioritization of development, France was the 10th largest donor, spending 0.56% of its GNI on ODA in 2022. In 2021, France was the 7th largest donor with 0.51% ODA / GNI .
France's ODA increased by 12.5% between 2021 and 2022, from 0.51% of GNI in 2021 to 0.56% in 2022. This increase was mostly due to a sharp increase in ODA to SSA and in-donor refugee costs. France’s ODA has been growing steadily in recent years, increasing 30% between 2019 and 2022. The increases in absolute and relative ODA are largely in line with France’s goal of reaching an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.7% in 2025. This goal was pledged by President Macron in 2017, and later enshrined in the landmark Programming Law for Solidarity-based Development and the Fight Against Global Inequalities adopted in 2021 which included a milestone ODA/GNI ratio of 0.55% in 2022.
To achieve the 0.7% ODA/GNI target, the law prescribes a trajectory of 0.55% in 2022, 0.61% in 2023, and 0.66% in 2024. Despite meeting the target in 2022, the 2023 budget development is projected to lag behind targets set by the law, with total projected ODA remaining at 0.55% of GNI. While an official estimate of France’s total ODA for 2023 has not been published yet, current estimations suggest that it will amount to EUR16.1 billion (US$19 billion). This shortfall is likely due to a reduction of in-donor refugee costs, which counterbalances the expected increase of the ODA mission by EUR 820 million (US$970 million) and increased contributions to the EU budget.
In recent years, France has pioneered innovative financing mechanisms, such as the FTT and an airline tax, to fund multilateral development priorities, namely health and climate organizations. Revenues raised by both the FTT and the airline tax mobilize EUR738 million (US$872 million) every year for multilateral assistance, disbursed through the Solidarity Fund. France has also taken the lead in advocating for the use of SDRs to increase overall ODA, committing to redirect 30% of its SDR allocation to the African continent.
On September 10, 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the publication of the joint G20 communiqué in his speech during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, welcoming the African Union as a permanent G20 member and commenting on funding mobilization efforts.
Macron applauded the fact that the G20 goal of reallocating US$100 billion in SDRs from HICs to low- and medium-income countries had been surpassed, totaling US$108 billion. France exceeded its previous reallocation pledge, reallocating 40% of its SDRs totaling approximately US$7.5 billion. He emphasized France's central role with the IMF in launching and proposing this initiative.
France channeled 66% of its ODA bilaterally in 2021, above the DAC average of 43%. However, it is also a strong supporter of multilateral organizations.
According to the 2021 development law, bilateral ODA is set to represent 65% of France’s total ODA on average between 2022-2025. This effectively introduces a cap on multilateral spending and may result in a larger budget for France’s implementing agencies, particularly the AFD.
Compared to other DAC donors, France channels more bilateral ODA through public sector institutions, or 74% compared to the DAC average of 44%. This is due to the significant role of the AFD and its dual status as both an implementing agency and a development bank.
While France’s largest bilateral funding area is education, bilateral ODA figures reported by France include a range of items categorized as ODA. Some of these do not represent actual transfers from France to a recipient country, such as hosting students from a partner country. Since 2016, an increasing proportion of French bilateral ODA has been allocated to in-country refugee costs, amounting to 9% of bilateral ODA in 2021. Other key funding areas include financial services and business support, health and populations, and environmental protection, with the first two categories almost doubling compared to 2020.
France provides more than half of its bilateral ODA, or 53%, as loans in an effort to minimize the impact on actual budget transfers while increasing ODA, far above the DAC average of 9%. The government has committed to increasing the share of grants within its ODA, with the 2021 Development Law stipulating that grants should make up 70% of bilateral ODA over the 2022-2025 period.
France’s approach to ODA is differentiated by the recipient country’s income level, with loans primarily extended to emerging economies and grants to LICs.
France focuses its grants on 19 LMICs designated as ‘Pays Pauvres Prioritaires’, also known as ‘PPPs.’ Almost all of these partners are located in ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’, including 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.
The 2021 Development Law dictates that by 2025, priority countries should receive 25% of French bilateral ODA and at least half of all grants. However, due to France’s continued emphasis on loans, MICs continue to make up the bulk of France’s top recipient countries in 2021. The top recipients of grant funding in 2021 were Morocco, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal, while the top recipients of loans were Brazil, Colombia, and Morocco.
France places a strategic focus on countries on the African continent. In 2021, France allocated 26% of bilateral ODA to SSA, just above the DAC average of 24%. This focus is likely to continue as France increasingly prioritizes the Sahel region.
France’s ODA loans focus on emerging economies, with LMICs receiving the largest share, or 35%, in 2021.
Despite France’s emphasis on bilateral funding, it remains a strong supporter of many multilateral organizations, with multilateral ODA amounting to 40% in 2021. France’s largest recipient, the EU, receives almost half of France’s multilateral ODA. Additionally, 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, Unitaid, and Gavi, including Covax.
All three organizations are outlined as key partners in France’s 2017-2021 multilateral engagement strategy, which will likely be renewed in the second half of 2023 and will cover the 2022-2027 period. Moreover, since the COVID-19 pandemic, France has been a strong supporter of the WHO and its central position in the global health architecture. This strategic focus is likely to continue, as suggested by the Court of Audits’ 2023 report.
France is a unitary, semi-presidential constitutional republic. Elections take place every five years. There are five main parties represented in the French Parliament: Renaissance, the Republicans, the Socialist Party, La France Insoumise, and the National Rally.
Emmanuel Macron of the ‘Renaissance’ party has been in power since May 2017. Macron won reelection in April 2022 in a runoff against Marine Le Pen of the National Rally, a right-wing populist party that saw a surge in popularity. President Macron leads the country’s high-level international priorities, while Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne focuses on domestic affairs.
In 2018, France’s CICID—the body in charge of setting the strategic direction of France’s development cooperation—defined France’s sectoral priorities, which include:
- International stability;
- Climate change;
- Gender equality; and
- Global health.
These priorities were reaffirmed by the 2021 Development Law.
On July 18, 2023, the CICID met to formulate a new series of guidelines for France's development priorities.
The meeting of the CICID followed the Presidential Development Council held on May 5, 2023, which set 10 major priority objectives for the future of French development assistance.
These objectives were reiterated in the CICID conclusions. Concrete examples of supported policies from the meeting included:
- Accelerating the exit from coal-based energy and financing renewable energy to limit global warming to 1.5 °C;
- Protecting carbon and biodiversity reserves in forests and oceans;
- Investing in youth by supporting education and educator training in partner countries;
- Investing in primary health systems and supporting the training of health care providers in partner countries;
- Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa;
- Mobilizing expertise as well as private and public funding for strategic, quality, and sustainable infrastructures in partner countries;
- Strengthening food sovereignty, particularly in African partner countries;
- Supporting human rights and democracy and fighting disinformation;
- Promoting women's rights and gender equality, in particular by supporting women's organizations and institutions; and
- Helping partner countries dismantle illegal immigration networks.
READ MORE ON FRANCE'S ODA ACROSS PRIORITY AREAS:
In addition to prescribing the 0.7% ODA/GNI financial target for 2025, the 2021 Development Law provides for a larger overhaul of French development policy. It sets three objectives for France’s ODA:
- The fight against poverty, malnutrition, and global inequalities, and the promotion of education and health;
- The promotion of human rights, particularly children, the rule of law and democracy, and Francophonie; and
- The protection of global public goods, in particular in the context of climate change.
In addition, gender equality has become a cross-cutting objective, in line with France’s "feminist foreign diplomacy".
Within its overall foreign policy, France focuses on fighting ‘terrorism’ and increasingly aims to use development cooperation to leverage peace and stability in partner countries, notably in the Sahel region.
France maintains a high level of interest in global health and took an active part in the pandemic response, increasing its financial contributions to the sector, notably to the Global Fund, COVAX AMC, WHO, Unitaid, and the new Pandemic Fund.
France co-hosted the Paris Summit for a new Global Financial Pact (GFP) together with India on June 22-23, 2023. The summit aimed to define concrete actions to support the most vulnerable countries and reform the international financial architecture to accelerate an equitable global transition towards net-zero emissions and the development of LICs.
The Summit included a high-level steering committee and four working groups on thematic areas of:
- Fiscal space;
- Private sector;
- Green infrastructure;
- Innovative financing; and
- One expert group for financing loss and damage and adaptation.
The summit sought to reform the global financial architecture including the reform of multilateral development banks, the mobilization of the private sector, the mobilization of resources for climate change, the effective allocation of SDRs, the design and support for new taxes to fund global public goods and solutions to the indebtment of the most vulnerable countries.
Breaking the “cycle of panic and neglect"
France is increasingly committed to addressing the climate transition and environmental issues, such as the protection of biodiversity and transitioning food systems.
France also focuses on projects at the intersection of humanitarian assistance and development. By 2022, the government had planned to dedicate EUR500 million ( US$560 million) per year to urgent humanitarian action and post-crisis stabilization. France has recently emphasized food security as part of its humanitarian efforts.
The 2021 Development Law reaffirmed France’s geographical priorities with a focus on the African continent as a whole, the Sahel region in particular, and the ‘Mediterranean zone.’
France’s focus on the African continent has been accompanied by attempts to reshape the relationship with Africa and build a new partnership narrative. Examples of these attempts include high-level events such as the ‘New Africa-France Summit’ in October 2021, as well as the February 2022 ‘ AU/EU summit’ that France led as part of the French Presidency of the European Council.
France also seeks to support local actors more directly, for instance in R&D and global health through local production and manufacturing, local procurement, and technology transfers, or democracy through efforts like the Innovation Fund for Democracy. On February 28, 2023, before departing for Gabon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, and DRC, Macron held a press conference in Paris to present France’s renewed Africa strategy. He vowed to depart from a strictly military and economic policy toward Africa and to promote cooperation in fields such as health, innovation and agriculture. Macron’s speech marks a new vision for his second mandate moving away from an ODA-based relationship toward an economic and cultural partnership. Following the speech, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna referred to new partnerships that will need to be built with Africa, including the preservation of forests, the fight against climate change, the fight against pandemics, and the defense of multilateralism.
Like most EU countries, France has been providing substantial political and financial support to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion by Russia in February 2022.
During his second term, Macron is likely to continue promoting multilateralism and engaging France on global issues, while taking steps to renew the nature and modalities of France’s partnership with the African continent. With the Russian war in Ukraine dominating the political agenda, France will likely focus multilateral engagement on increased defense and security cooperation, energy independence, as well as humanitarian assistance, including to countries affected by the global food supply crisis. France notably advocates for more support to developing countries facing multiple health, climate, energy, and economic crises, promoting a reallocation of Special Drawing Rights.
Advocating for SDR Reallocation
The 2023 budget plans to allocate 0.55% of GNI to ODA, a flat contribution compared to 2022. This constant figure is due to a decrease in refugee costs compensated by an increase in the ODA mission and France’s contribution to the EU.
Excluding loans, the ODA mission will increase by EUR820 million (US$970 million) in 2023, representing one of the largest program increases in the budget.
French ODA stems from two main sources: the general budget and other sources not included in the general budget. The latter mainly includes debt relief mechanisms, contributions to the European Commission and multilateral organizations, and funding generated through the FTT (EUR528 million, or US$624 million, in 2023) and the airline ticket tax (EUR210 million, or US$248 million, in 2023).
An official projection of France’s total ODA budget for 2023 has not been published yet. The 2023 budget indicates that the total ODA is projected to remain at 0.55% of GNI, thus not increasing in line with the financial trajectory set by the 2021 Development Law. Current estimations suggest that this will be equivalent to EUR16.1 billion (US$19 billion). This is likely due to a reduction of ODA generated by in-donor refugee costs, which counterbalances the expected increase of the ODA mission by EUR820 million ( US$970 million) and an increase in French ODA contribution financed by the EU budget.
The so-called ODA Mission is composed of the two largest ODA programs in the general budget: Program 110 of the Finance Ministry and Program 209 of the MEAE.
The MEAE’s Program 209: ‘Solidarity with developing countries’ is set at EUR3.4 billion ( US$4 billion) for 2023, a 19% increase over 2022 levels. It encompasses four main funding envelopes:
- Bilateral spending: EUR2.1 billion ( US$2.5 billion), increasing by 25% compared to 2022, driven by increasing transfers to the AFD (for bilateral grants, funding to CSOs, and technical assistance), and a doubling of funding for fragility and crisis management; other spending lines include the Debt-Reduction Development Contracts (C2D), and the MEAE -managed FSP;
- Multilateral contributions to UN agencies and other multilaterals: EUR825 million ( US$975 million);
- Contributions to the EDF: EUR374 million ( US$442 million); and
- Staff costs: EUR161 million ( US$190 million).
The Finance Ministry’s Program 110: ‘Economic and financial development assistance’ is set at EUR2.3 billion ( US$2.7 billion) for 2023, a 26% increase over 2022 levels, driven mainly by multilateral spending. It includes three main funding envelopes:
- Multilateral assistance to IFIs: EUR1.7 billion ( US$2 billion), increasing by 33% compared to 2022;
- Bilateral assistance (mostly for loans managed by AFD and technical cooperation): EUR549 million ( US$649 million); and
- Transfers to AFD and IFIs to reimburse them for losses resulting from canceled debts: EUR116 million ( US$137 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 AFD to provide concessional loans to partner countries. For 2023, EUR150 million ( US$177 million) has been allocated to this program. Program 365 ‘Strengthening the capital of AFD’ reinforces the funds of AFD and is set at EUR350 million ( US$414 million) in 2023. A portion of the debt forgiven through C2Ds, implemented by the Finance Ministry and AFD, along with additional partner countries, is allocated to sectors related to development, such as health and agriculture. For 2023, EUR33 million ( US$39 million) was allocated for C2D contracts under Program 209.
Debt cancellation contracts and debt relief have recently played an important role within French ODA. France has made a strong commitment to favor debt relief to LICs and MICs within a bilateral or multilateral framework. France hosted a head-of-state-level summit in June 2023 in Paris to define a new global financial pact with climate finance, debt, and SDRs featuring on the agenda.
- Allocations for 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 Finance Ministry and other ministries develop the economic forecasts 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.
- MEAE develops its budget request: In parallel, around May-June, the MEAE starts developing its budget request for the following year in consultation with the Finance Ministry. Negotiations 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 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 MEAE’s Program 209 and the Finance Ministry’s Program 110.
- Ministries review their budget requests and determine allocations: From mid-July to October, the MEAE and the Finance Ministry review their ODA budget requests considering the expenditure ceiling and develop budget documents. Ministries decide on budget lines within Program 209 and Program 110 during this time.
- 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 President signs the budget before December 25.
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At Donor Tracker, we prefer not to call it aid.
The Donor Tracker team, along with many DAC donor countries, no longer uses the term "foreign aid". In the modern world, "foreign aid" is monodirectional and insufficient to describe the complex nature of global development work, which, when done right, involves the establishment of profound economic and cultural ties between partners.
We strongly prefer the term Official Development Assistance (ODA) and utilize specific terms such as grant funding, loans, private sector investment, etc., which provide a clearer picture of what is concretely occurring. “Foreign aid” will be referenced for accuracy when referring to specific policies that use the term. Read more in this Donor Tracker Insight.
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