At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), SEO Amsterdam Economics has conducted an independent evaluation of the ‘Develop2Build’ (D2B) programme carried out by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (in Dutch: RVO). This mid-term ‘process evaluation’ includes an analysis of RVO’s programme management and the criteria used for D2B project selection, including development relevance, relevance for the Dutch economy and the additionality of D2B compared to comparable instruments. Finally, we discuss several future scenarios for D2B.

D2B supports governments in developing countries with the development of project proposals for public infrastructure. It does this by providing grants for technical and economic feasibility studies, as well as studies focused on environmental and social impact. The ultimate goal of the programme is to promote inclusive economic growth in developing countries by improving public infrastructure. Since its inception in 2015, D2B launched 53 projects in 28 different countries. Nearly half of these projects were in the sector ‘Water and Sanitation’. By the end of 2019, €24.5 million of the available €75 million had been committed.

Key evaluation findings:

  • D2B’s selection processes are not transparent for all parties involved, as project proposals are not formally scored.
  • While the development relevance of D2B projects seems high, this is not clearly defined nor measured.
  • The frequent changes in the political agenda and the corresponding country focus of MFA are challenges for D2B (especially given the long development and implementation processes needed for infrastructure projects).
  • The Dutch government, other development partners and local governments are optimistic about the financeability of D2B projects.
  • D2B generates business for a small group of Dutch consulting companies and knowledge institutions. Follow-up projects originating from D2B may benefit some Dutch companies, but only if they have a competitive advantage.
  • D2B seems additional to government funds in recipient countries and to commercial funding. Nevertheless, the additionality of D2B projects is not sufficiently tested and no clear definitions are provided to distinguish between the different forms and sources of additionality. This can lead to non-additional projects.
  • Compared to other similar international instruments, D2B is unique in three ways: (1) Dutch embassies play an important role in identifying new projects ; (2) it capitalises on the development of the bilateral diplomatic relationship between the Netherlands and the recipient country; (3) D2B is an important source for follow-up projects that finance the actual implementation of infrastructure projects via the RVO programme ‘DRIVE.’


This evaluation was carried out using a mix of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods. Qualitative evaluation methods included the analysis of project documents and other relevant literature, as well as interviews with representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RVO, FMO, and other relevant development partners. In addition, SEO organised a roundtable discussion with Dutch companies and government representatives about the effectiveness, focus and future of D2B. Quantitative methods included descriptive statistical analysis of project data and survey data collected by SEO.