Big results now? Emerging lessons from Results-Based Aid in Tanzania

Heiner Janus and Niels Keijzer


Experiments with Results-Based Aid (RBA) is an ongoing trend in development cooperation.  This paper analyses design features and initial implementation experiences of three ongoing RBA programmes in Tanzania that support government reforms in the water, education and decentralisation sectors. It finds that the overarching programme and the nature of capacity development support clearly prioritise short-term gains over longer-term sustainability. However, these tendencies are not intrinsic to RBA as a modality, but rather a more common feature of development cooperation.

Sixteen respondents were interviewed during a one-week visit to Dar-es-Salaam in September 2014. A structured desk review of general literature and programme documents on the development interventions was carried out.

The evidence from the study suggests that the programmes are strongly shaped by the political economy of development cooperation in Tanzania. Some interviewees suggested that rather than offer something different, RBA interventions would allow donor support similar to general and sector budget support in a way that is more publicly acceptable at home. RBA interventions are potentially most effective in cases where indicators are straightforward to measure with little room for interpretation that could lead to a state of permanent negotiation between the government and donor.

The report also highlights three ways for implementing RBA:

  • Mixed modality which has the potential to use each modality to its strength but may have higher transaction costs. For example, DFID Water Sector.
  • RBA + separate capacity development support. This has a strong focus on results and the possibility of targeting donor support to complement RBA. However, this may lead to the instrumentalisation of capacity development support to facilitate RBA disbursements. For example, DFID Education.
  • RBA + integrated capacity development support. It has a similar focus on results but with incentives for supportive capacity development. There many be challenges in paying for capacity development indicators in a results-based manner.

A number of interviewees expressed concern that capacity development across all three was mainly provided as a means to achieve results and make the programmes a success. This was particularly notable in the DFID Education programme where interviewees noted a trade-off between longer-term capacity development and getting things done. On the other hand, the short-term focus has given people the perspective necessary to understand why results were not achieved in the past.

The analysis presents an encouraging picture of donors and governments welcoming innovative and adaptive approaches. While RBA practices also feature many typical characteristics of other modalities,  their design and implementation depend significantly on the donor, sector and partner country. The prioritisation of short-term gains may neglect considerations of – and measures to – longer-term sustainability. Capacity development support has focused less on mitigating the risks of the short-term driver for results and instead focused on enabling and ensuring successful implementation. Managing the risks of the government’s plans and donor’s support requires discipline and clear prioritisation by all. While the programme’s expansion is a measure of success, in combination with underfunding it increases the likelihood of overlaps and supplementation of government efforts.


Janus, H., & Keijzer, N. (2015). Big results now? Emerging lessons from Results-Based Aid in Tanzania (Discussion Paper 4/2015). Bonn: German Development Institute.