Understanding the motivations and roles of National Development Experts in Ghana: ‘We do all the donkey work and they take the glory’

Emmanuel Kumi, Md Palash Kamruzzaman

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National development experts (NDEs) play unique roles as knowledge brokers, translators and gatekeepers between governments, intended beneficiaries and donors on various development policies and practices. Due to their local contextual knowledge, they influence development activities at national levels by engaging in formulation and implementation of development policies. However, discussion of their motivations and roles has been particularly limited in the existing development literature. Drawing on 25 semi-structured interviews with the local staff of donor agencies and non-governmental organisations, independent consultants, civil servants and academics in Ghana, this article presents findings on their motivations and roles within Ghana’s development landscape. We argue that while the motivations and roles of NDEs are similar in many ways to those of Western development experts, except their contextual understanding of national development issues, their contributions to development are so far excluded within the development literature. This article contributes to the emerging aid ethnography literature by providing a more comprehensive perspective on NDEs and deepens the scholarship by asking whether the exclusion of this group is a deliberate choice or unintended mistake. The article further highlights the perspectives of NDEs on their engagement with foreign experts and its implications for national development and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1877127
Pages (from-to)1157-1175
Number of pages19
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021


  • National Development Experts (NDEs)
  • development
  • aid ethnography
  • white gaze
  • inequality
  • Ghana


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