Mapping aid to Malawi

Below is a simple map of district-level aid to Malawi since 2000. The information on aid came from AidData and the map file came from the UNSALB. The code was written in R. There is nothing overly complicated about the map, but it was one of the first times that I sat down with R and figured out how to make a map.

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I learned a few lessons along the way:

  1. While the geocoded data from AidData are amazing, I really wish that they broke down disbursements by year. Unless I’m missing something, then all that you get in the Malawi dataset are date of commitment, planned date of completion, and amount disbursed to date. I don’t want to complain, but data by year would be really useful to researchers.
  2. It is hard to find trustworthy shapefiles of maps with subnational boundaries. I tried using a few dodgy ones (look at the odd boundaries in the south) before stumbling across the UN Second Level Administrative Boundaries data set project. I will start there next time that I need maps.
  3. If you are mapping in R, maptools is your friend. If you are merging datasets, then I found it far easier to use join (part of the plyr package) than merge. I still am very much learning R, so interpret my recommendations accordingly.