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Joint Africa Institute: Inaugural seminar focuses on economic reform, governance, and capacity building

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 1999
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In his opening remarks, Omar Kabbaj, President of the AfDB, welcomed the increased collaboration on training in Africa between the three founding institutions. IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus, in his address delivered via videotape, highlighted the IMF’s increased emphasis on poverty alleviation and high-quality growth, and referred to the JAI as “a new milestone in the enhancement of economic and financial training opportunities in Africa.” Vinod Thomas, Director of the World Bank Institute, who spoke on behalf of World Bank President James Wolfensohn, stressed the complementarities that the three institutions would bring to capacity building in Africa through the JAI. The inaugural ceremony was presided over by Cote d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, who underscored his country’s commitment to capacity building and his support for the JAI.

Role of the state and stabilization

The first session, chaired by Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Planning Tidjane Thiam, reviewed the changing role of the African state. The speakers (Henock Kiflé of the AfDB, George Abed of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and Vinod Thomas), emphasized that the state’s new role must include ensuring peace and macro-economic stability, providing and enforcing political democracy and a level playing field for the private sector, and enhancing equity to ensure the social sustainability of reforms. Abed emphasized that good governance was critical in this regard. Furthermore, governments needed to get the policy fundamentals right and to develop their human and institutional capacity in order to provide the necessary conditions for sustainable, high-quality growth, the best assurance for reducing poverty.

The session dealing with the challenge of macroeconomic stabilization in Africa was chaired by G.E. Gondwe, Director of the IMF’s African Department. Kwesi Botchwey, Director of the Harvard Institute for Development, underscored that macroeco-nomic imbalances had already been significantly reduced and that the issue now at stake for Africa was that of reducing corruption and alleviating poverty. He expressed concern about what he perceived to be the loss of control by the African countries over their policy agenda to donors and multilateral institutions. Mamoudou Toure, former Director of the IMF’s African Department, said, however, that he felt considerable efforts were still needed to consolidate the progress already made on macroeconomic stabilization and to resolve the deep-rooted structural constraints. He argued that it was up to the African countries to be more self-critical and to take the lead in setting their own agenda rather than bemoan the loss of control over it.

Capacity building

Konan Banny, Governor of the Banque Centrale des Etats de I’Afrique de I’Ouest, chaired the session on capacity building in Africa, which included Ruth Namkabirwa, Uganda’s Minister of State; Juliette Bonkoungou, Burkina Faso’s President of the Economic and Social Council; and Jose Sulemane of Mozambique’s Ministry of Planning. The speakers agreed that skills and well-functioning institutions were essential to sustained economic development. They voiced the opinion that capacity building should involve African countries themselves more deeply, along with their training institutions. In this regard, participants made suggestions ranging from a change in mentality and increased self-confidence to the need to solicit endowments for capacity-building programs.

The last session, chaired by Denmark’s Ambassador Ole Blicher Olsen, focused on the role of international financial institutions in capacity building in Africa. Cyril Enweze (AfDB) emphasized that weak capacity critically hindered development and outlined the steps the AfDB was taking to build up capacity, pointing particularly to the AfDB’s involvement in the Partnership for Capacity Building in Africa (PACT) and the JAI. Saleh Nsouli, Deputy Director of the IMF Institute, noted that there was clear evidence that institutions did matter for economic growth, and that the question now was “which institutions mattered most and how did one acquire them.” He further highlighted the IMF’s role in capacity building through training, technical assistance, and interactions in the context of consultations and/or program design and monitoring. Brian Levy of the World Bank explained how the Bank had reassessed its role in capacity building, drawing on the lessons of the past 15 years. He noted that the emphasis had now shifted to a partnership model, such as the PACT, to establish the appropriate institutional environment.

At the closing luncheon, AfDB Vice President Chanel Boucher expressed the wish that the JAI be known for its high-quality training and its focus on economic development issues relevant to Africa. Boucher was confident that the use of distance learning and the expansion of JAI’s activities over time would be key factors in responding to the critical training needs of Africa. JAI Director Michel Dessart expressed appreciation to the participants for their contributions to the inaugural seminar and hoped that the JAI would be able to contribute directly to capacity building in Africa through its training program.

The next issue of the IMF Survey will be published on January 10, 2000.

Ian S. McDonald

Editor-in-Chief

Sara Kane

Deputy Editor

Sheila Meehan

Senior Editor

Elisa Diehl

Assistant Editor

Sharon Metzger

Senior Editorial Assistant

Lijun Li

Editorial Assistant

Jessie Hamilton

Administrative Assistant

Philip Torsani Art Editor Victor Barcelona

Graphic Artist

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