My first choropleth

I’ve managed to get some data onto my PostGIS database, and have got my first visualisation result.

Since the aid dataset is large (c. 1,000,000, source:, the dataset is called ‘aid data 2 short’) I’ve summed over donors and within years, to leave me with a total aid received (or rather, promised, since the dataset has amounts pledged, not amounts donated) per recipient country per year. This set is a far more manageable size.

Having added population data from the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (World Population Prospects, the 2010 revision) I’m able to draw a choropleth map of the world with the colour of a country representing amount of aid committed to that country in a the current year (the example uses 2000 as a randomly chosen benchmark). It’s work which is very similar to this.

Nice, isn’t it?

levels of aid choropleth
my first choropleth (QGIS)

Giving aid to non-existent countries

In the big, fat dataset I’m using to study what affects the global flow of development aid, I’ve come across a problem which researchers must have dealt with a million times from scratch, and never published the results of how they got around it.

The data set has donor/recipient pairs for over a million promised amounts of development aid, along with a date and a reason for giving the aid.

Sounds simple, but the problem comes from data relating to countries which, according to my separate dataset of country boundaries (the wonderful CShapes) didn’t exist at the time the aid was promised.

For example, aid was given by the World Bank to Botswana in 1965 even though that country only achieved independence from Great Britain in 1966. My world boundaries dataset reflects this accurately giving a “start date” for Botswana of 1966. Before this date, the country was simple considered not to have existed and a map drawn of all the countries as of 1965 just has a gap where Botswana should be.

This is a pretty serious problem in the field of development aid, since many of the relevant countries are former colonies and aid was often given to those countries before they were independent from their colonial masters.

This problem must have been solved a million times before. But by whom?