Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank
and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically
as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints
on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill
gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence
was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services
to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what
some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection
infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of
transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that
these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation
on public health systems.
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