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IMF Survey : IMF Opens Africa Training Institute

June 26, 2014

  • African countries to face new policy challenges as they develop
  • Goal of new center is to build economic policymaking capacity on continent
  • Training will be anchored in the realities of macroeconomic management in Africa

The IMF has opened a new training institute in Mauritius to help African governments develop the economic policymaking capacity necessary to sustain the continent’s recent economic gains and cope with emerging challenges.

Street in Mauritius: IMF’s Africa Training Institute opens at a time when countries of sub-Saharan Africa face emerging challenges (photo: Rolf Richardson/Robert Harding/Newscom)

Street in Mauritius: IMF’s Africa Training Institute opens at a time when countries of sub-Saharan Africa face emerging challenges (photo: Rolf Richardson/Robert Harding/Newscom)

IMF Capacity Development

The Africa Training Institute (ATI), which formally opened in Ebene on June 26, is the first such center in Africa and the fourth established by the IMF around the world to provide high-quality training in macroeconomic management to government officials. The IMF’s other major training centers are located in Austria, Kuwait, and Singapore.

“The opening of the Africa Training Institute comes at a time when countries of sub-Saharan Africa are facing important economic and social challenges,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu told a gathering of African officials and development partners at the opening ceremony. “The ATI is well positioned to help African authorities tackle these challenges.”

Coping with new issues

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have now sustained 5-6 percent growth rates for more than a decade, thanks to sound economic policies, debt relief, stronger institutions, and high investment.

But despite this sound performance, there are risks to the outlook, Zhu pointed out. Some are driven by external factors—such as a weakening of growth in the rest of the world, or a tightening of global financial conditions—while others could arise from domestic sources, such as rising fiscal imbalances. Through its technical assistance and training, the IMF can help country officials gain the skills to manage these risks, he said.

In addition, as African economies reach higher income levels, they will begin to confront a new set of challenges similar to those faced by middle-income countries elsewhere in the world, Zhu noted.

“They will have to deal with capital inflows, a deepening financial system, and the increasing complexity of their financial markets,” he said. “This, in turn, would require stronger institutions and higher skill levels of government officials to be able to manage these new, more complex financial sector risks.”

Developing synergies

The new training institute is located next door to the IMF’s regional technical assistance center for southern Africa (AFRITAC South), which opened in 2011 and provides technical assistance to 13 countries in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. The close proximity of the two centers offers a unique opportunity to develop synergies between training and technical assistance, which form the two main branches of the IMF’s capacity development work.

“The ATI serves as an embodiment of the IMF’s new integrated and holistic approach to capacity development,” Zhu said.

“Under this new approach, the IMF aims at developing capacity in both institutions and people, by bringing training and technical assistance more closely together,” he added.

The ATI joins a network of five IMF Regional Technical Assistance Centers established on the continent to help build economic policymaking capacity. With the inauguration of the Africa Training Institute, the capacity building network is now complete.

Tailored to Africa’s needs

Aware of the need to build capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, the government of Mauritius responded to the IMF’s open bid in 2012 to host a regional training center. The government provided a substantial cash contribution in addition to donating the physical training facilities.

These donations, together with a contribution from China, allowed the IMF to establish the ATI in Mauritius, expanding the number and the range of courses available to sub-Saharan African officials.

Through the ATI, the IMF will deliver a broad curriculum of macroeconomic management courses from fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies to inclusive growth policies, financial inclusion, debt sustainability, and the management of natural resource revenue—an area that is increasingly important for countries in Africa. The curriculum also covers issues in economic and monetary integration.

The center’s courses will be tailored to the needs of African policymakers and anchored in the realities of macroeconomic management in Africa, a key advantage of a regionally based institute.