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The Politics of Kuwaiti Foreign Aid and Islamic Charitable Giving in Africa

341 Eggers Hall

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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs  

Maxwell African Scholars Union


The Politics of Kuwaiti Foreign Aid and Islamic Charitable Giving in Africa 

A Talk by Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University

Scholarship has begun to examine Africa as a new arena for competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, especially in relation to implications of the recent Qatar-GCC crisis on the Horn of Africa. Kuwait has long had foreign policy interests in Africa that differ considerably from its GCC neighbors. Named “an international humanitarian center” by the United Nations in 2014, Kuwait’s relations with Africa have been at multiple – and increasingly coordinated – levels of state policy, civil society, and pious individual donors. With lines between “charity,” “relief,” and “development” increasingly blurred, this talk explores the politics of giving. Kuwait developed the first national development fund in the region immediately after its independence in 1961. Kuwaiti NGOs, many established in the 1980s, also sponsor charitable and development activities on the African continent. A small state, very much aware that larger powerful neighbors might desire once again its oil wealth following the Iraqi invasion of 1990-1991, Kuwait has given generously to other nations as part of a strategic foreign policy. Poorer countries have much to offer in return, from soldiers to votes – as evidenced by Kuwait’s election to a seat on the UN Security Council in 2018-2019, with the support of many African friends. This talk will explore the long history of relations between Kuwait and Senegal, the African country that has received the largest amount of Kuwaiti development assistance.

Sponsoring Departments: Maxwell African Scholars Union, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, and Middle Eastern Studies Program 

Contact Havva Karakas-Keles for more information at  

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