Repression and Foreign Aid in Autocracies: Exploiting Debt Relief Negotiations in Post-Cold War Africa


Does dependence on development aid from Western sources constrain the use of repression among autocrats? To answer this question, I employ a novel dataset of Africa's post-Cold War autocracies in which the unit of analysis is the country-day rather than the country-year. This day-level dataset enables me to address three potential sources of bias that obscure the relationship between Western aid dependence and repression. The evidence suggests that, when the threat of nancial sanction is credible, Western donors have reduced the daily odds of repression in Africa's post-Cold War autocracies by a factor of 10. Western aid dependence is constraining even during election seasons, when rates of protest and repression are high relative to other times of year. Most broadly, these results suggest that modern autocrats who rely on Western donors for nancial support lack the easy recourse to repression enjoyed by their Cold War era predecessors.