Press Release: IMF Opens Fourth Regional Technical Assistance Center in Africa
October 17, 2011Press Release No.11/364
October 17, 2011
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) today officially opened its fourth Africa regional technical assistance center (AFRITAC) in Mauritius, offering capacity building services to 13 countries across Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
“This is a bright day for capacity building in Africa,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu told donors, delegates, and staff at an opening ceremony in Mauritius. Mr. Zhu said the opening of the center, known as “AFRITAC South,” was a critical milestone in the IMF’s Africa Capacity Building Initiative, which was launched in 2002. The initiative seeks to strengthen the capacity of African governments and institutions to design and implement sound macroeconomic policies consistent with their poverty-reducing strategies.
“The IMF launched this initiative with a vision: give access to all countries in sub-Saharan Africa to an IMF regional technical assistance center. This vision was a response to African heads of state, who realized the continent needed centers of capacity-building excellence on the ground in the face of mounting challenges. Today, we have implemented four-fifths of this vision,” Mr. Zhu stated.
The new center, located in Port Louis, Mauritius, became operational on June 1, 2011. It serves Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It complements three existing AFRITACs: AFRITAC East opened in 2002 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; AFRITAC West opened in 2003 in Bamako, Mali; and AFRITAC Central, opened in 2007 in Libreville, Gabon. The four centers cover 38 sub-Saharan African countries. A fifth and final AFRITAC is planned to open in Accra, Ghana, in the future.
Like its sister offices, AFRITAC South will provide capacity-building assistance through a team of international resident experts, supplemented by short-term specialists, who will deliver assistance in the IMF’s core areas of expertise. Those areas include financial sector supervision, monetary policy and operations, tax and customs administration, public financial management, and macroeconomic statistics. The center is led by a coordinator and is guided by a steering committee whose members represent the beneficiary countries, donors, and the IMF.
Mr. Zhu recognized contributions to AFRITAC South from the beneficiary countries, including Mauritius; the IMF; and donors, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank. He noted, however, that the center was not fully financed, and important training activities were on hold pending additional funding. “I therefore appeal today to our development partners and donors to complete the full funding of the center’s budget, so it may deliver all the objectives planned in the center’s program document,” he said.
Mr. Zhu said capacity-building assistance was critical for African countries to develop strong institutions, such as those which had helped many African countries through the 2008/09 international financial crisis. “Unlike during previous crises, Africa weathered that storm well and rebounded quickly. In hindsight, we believe that strong institutions, sound policies in the run up to the crisis, and the buildup of fiscal buffers all contributed to this remarkable result,” he said. “Strong institutions are the backbones of steadfast policies conducive to sustained development.”
Demand for IMF technical assistance has risen in light of the global economic and financial crisis, but also because countries are seeking to strengthen their institutions. At the same time, the Fund is moving forward with a broad range of measures to respond more effectively to its members’ needs to deal with emerging challenges of the global economy. To meet this rising demand as well as better coordinate assistance delivery, the IMF seeks to strengthen its partnerships with donors by engaging them on a broader, longer-term, and more strategic basis. As a part of these efforts, the IMF is expanding its network of Regional Technical Assistance Centers. It now has four centers in Africa, plus centers in the Pacific, Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean.
The Africa Regional Technical Assistance Centers (AFRITACs) are part of the IMF’s Africa Capacity-Building Initiative launched in May 2002. Responding to calls from African leaders, the Initiative promotes strengthening the capacity of African countries to design and implement their poverty-reducing strategies, as well as to improve the coordination of capacity-building technical assistance in this endeavor. As part of the Initiative, four centers have been established in Africa. AFRITAC East was opened in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2002, and serves seven countries in East Africa. AFRITAC West was opened in Bamako, Mali, in 2003, and serves 10 countries in Francophone West Africa. AFRITAC Central was opened in Libreville, Gabon, in 2007, and serves nine countries in Central Africa. AFRITAC South started operations in June 2011 in Mauritius and covers 13 countries in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. Work is in progress to open a regional center in Ghana to cover non-Francophone countries in West Africa (AFRITAC West 2). This will complete coverage of all sub-Saharan countries through AFRITACs.
Complementing the regional perspective of the regional centers, topical trust funds provide technical assistance globally on specialized topics. A successful topical trust fund on Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism was launched in May 2009 (see Press Release 09/108). New topical trust funds on Managing Natural Resource Wealth (Press Release No. 10/497), and on Tax Policy and Administration (Press Release No. 11/133) were launched in May 2011. Responding to the recent crisis, further topical trust funds are envisaged, including on sustainable debt strategies and managing debt portfolio risks.