Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Polish aid to Africa

An EU team studied Polish medical aid to Third World African countries during the Cold War. Far from being under Soviet control, Poles acted with considerable autonomy, and many benefited from such experiences.
Polish aid to Africa
Historians of development conventionally harbour a pro-western bias regarding the independence of eastern European states from Soviet control. Yet another point of view suggests that such countries independently cooperated with Third World countries.

The EU-funded COMECONAID (The Second World in the Third: Polish aid to Sudan and Nigeria from Comecon to EU accession) project examined Poland from such a perspective. The study focused on Polish aid to Sudan and Nigeria during the Cold War, emphasising the medical field.

Drawing upon archive materials and also recent interviews with ambassadors and other representatives, the study illustrated Polish attitudes. Specifically, it showed how Polish people perceived partners in developing countries and the Polish role in development. The team further detailed the mechanisms that socialist states used to govern development cooperation.

Results suggest the importance of political motivations for international cooperation. Yet, to the individuals and companies involved, economic gain mattered most. Polish interaction with the Third World was a complex mixture of capitalist practices and socialist planning.

Secondly, the team determined that Poland had not been excluded from international relations. Intellectual elites were able to work abroad, regardless of political affiliations. Such experiences turned out to have been very important to the post-1989 transition. Many individuals built their post-socialist careers using experiences and money gained abroad.

The COMECONAID project contributed to our understanding of the contemporary politics of foreign aid. Such ideas affect the practice of development work.

Related information

Keywords

Polish aid, Africa, Third World, Cold War, COMECONAID
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