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Trade-Related Examples of Assumptions Made and Not Made in Current CDCSs


USAID/Southern Africa
In the Southern Africa Region CDCS, implementation of the SADC Free Trade Agreement protocols are described as being key to improved economic and food security. However, in implementing these protocols the Mission listed the following as a critical assumption: Continuing economic and food crises do not make countries more protectionist in their policies and actions. Past food price spikes have caused increased protectionism.

USAID/Senegal's strategy for achieving trade improvement is focused in part on trade along the Dakar-Bamako corridor. Written in February 2012, the Mission's CDCS included an assumption about political stability in Senegal, but not about neighboring Mali, where stability collapsed only a few months later.


While USAID/Zambia's CDCS did not identify dependencies on other entities for the achievement its trade IR, the Mission's description of its plans for working through local entities provides a good overview of the range of institutions on which it will depend, and may need to monitor from an organizational perspective. As the CDCS notes, USAID plans to support several public-private partnerships that will support USAID Forward objectives through Zambian organizations, including microfinance institutions, private traders and processors. Other donors' support for infrastructure development will augment this effort.

While not listed as assumptions about partners, elements of the Mission's description of its trade IR include implicit assumptions about commitment and performance: USAID/Senegal's regional strategy for increasing trade along existing trade corridors notes that the agriculture donor group, of which USAID is a part, will promote increased investments in feeder roads, building on the MCC's rehabilitation of two major arteries in the SFZ and Senegal River Valley.

USAID defines assumptions as conditions under which the development hypothesis, or strategy for achieving a CDCS Development Objective, will hold true. For each DO, the CDCS must describe relevant critical assumptions and risk factors that lie beyond USAID’s control, but could have a significant effect on the success of the strategy and describe the degree to which the Mission can identify and manage these factors, and how it plans to monitor them during implementation, including whether identified assumptions hold.

USAID's CDCS guidance breaks assumptions into two distinct clusters and asks that Missions articulate both types as they pertain to specific DOs, namely, critical assumptions about factors that are beyond the Mission's direct control, and assumptions about USAID's Partners and their ability to deliver results linked to the CDCS. These two types of assumptions are discussed below. Country information included shows how important assumptions are for understanding, making decisions about, and investing in a proposed CDCS strategy. By convention, assumptions are usually stated positively.

  • Critical Assumptions are those which are particularly crucial to success but also lie beyond USAID's control and may lie outside its sphere of influence. These are the types of assumptions included with Results Frameworks in the past. The term “game changing” scenarios, such as a large-scale ethnic conflict emerging, has been introduced to illustrate the type of assumption that would represent a major risk, and would warrant careful consideration, and ongoing monitoring.
  • Assumptions about Results Achieved through Non-AID Resources Assumptions in this cluster focus on results that depend on other USG agencies, the host country government, other donors, multilateral development institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private sector organizations.

When reviewing trade results in a Results Framework, Missions may find the following list of illustrative assumptions about partners and critical assumptions a useful starting point for discussions.

Categories of Assumptions Illustrative Categories of Assumptions for the Result: Improved Trade Performance
Assumptions About Partners Critical Assumptions
Political Conditions

Consistent Government Policy (including on trade)

  • Stability — no conflict
  • Consistent Government Policy (including on trade)
Economic Conditions  
  • Relative stability at home
  • Stable international markets (demand/supply/prices)
Financial Conditions (Government)
  • Stability/improvement in Government Budget
  • Stable donor funding to country and for donor budget
  • Stability/improvement in Government Budget
  • Stable donor funding to country and for donor budget
Capacity — Partner Able to deliver on commitments  
Capacity — Partner's vendors Able to deliver on commitments  
Will — Partner Serious/Committed over extended period to their Results  
Performance — Partner Will deliver as promised — quantity, quality, time, influence Will deliver as promised — quantity, quality, time, influence
Performance — Partner's vendors Will deliver as promised - quantity, quality, time, influence  
Force majeure No unexpected crises No unexpected crises

CDCS development teams may also want to make use of the Assumptions Templates provided in this section of the kit for their use: one for Assumptions About Non-USAID Resources and another for Critical Assumptions.

In addition to identifying Assumptions, USAID’s CDCS Guidance asks staff to identify “game changing scenarios” that would have significant implications USAID’s country strategy overall or at the DO level, in a particular sector or region. While not specifically defined, revolutions, the tsunami in South East Asia, and global climate change more generally are changes of this order, as, from another perspective, has been the introduction of cell phones in the developing world. As any scenario of this sort is likely to require special attention in a CDCS, the E3 M&E kit does not include a standard template for describing important changes of this magnitude and their implications.

 << RF Template V2 With Sub-IRs Up CDCS Assumptions About Non-USAID Resources Template >>




A toolkit developed and implemented by:
Office of Trade and Regulatory Reform
Bureau of Economic Growth, Education, and Environment
US Agency for International Development (USAID)

For more information, please contact Paul Fekete.

Last updated: July 12, 2021

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