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Meet the East African Technical Assistance Center Coordinator

Mario de Zamaróczy, Center Coordinator (left) with the staff of the East African Technical Assistance Center.

Mario de Zamaróczy, Center Coordinator (center) with some of the staff of the East African Technical Assistance Center.

Mario de Zamaróczy has been on the front lines since 2007 as part of the IMF’s concerted effort to build and strengthen skills in institutions in Africa. He is the IMF’s Coordinator in the East Africa Technical Assistance Center (East AFRITAC), one of three such centers serving Africa.

"Managing a regional technical assistance center means managing one of the Fund’s most complex capacity-building programs. This program is a multi-country, multi-stakeholder, multi-year undertaking involving the management of many millions of IMF and donor dollars in the process," he says.

Regional Technical Assistance Centers

The IMF’s technical assistance centers operate in several regions across the world covering the African, Caribbean, Central American, Middle Eastern, and Pacific regions. They are widely considered a successful model for capacity building by the international community, in part because of one of the key premises on which they operate, that is, the technical assistance delivered through these centers is demand-driven. It responds to the needs of countries and is closely connected to their poverty-reducing strategies. The centers provide a natural platform for harmonization of regulatory frameworks, and adoption of best practices, as well as overall economic integration. At the same time, the technical assistance services offered by the centers both complement and supplement the assistance provided by other donors.

East AFRITAC

The Center is located in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, and since its inception has adopted a hands-on and output-oriented approach to its work. The Center has a strong presence across the region, which allows for prompt responses in dealing with requests from member countries and is reinforced by a deep knowledge of the local context. The Center has developed local counterpart teams, which work directly with the Center’s staff. These partnerships ensure that countries attach significant value to their stake in the capacity building reforms. They also promote sustainability of the reform effort. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they lead to the creation of a future pool of national and regional expertise.

Since the Center’s opening in 2002, its staff has nearly doubled and, in addition to de Zamaróczy, currently numbers fifteen resident advisors and administrative support staff. The advisors are long-term experts based in Dar es Salaam who travel widely throughout the region, which allows them to develop rapport with local authorities and familiarity with national and regional contexts and needs. The skills of the advisors reflect the identified needs of the beneficiary countries, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Funding is also available for the deployment of short-term experts and consultants brought in to deliver additional more targeted technical assistance. The provision of seminars and workshops, both at the national level and regionally, supplements the work of the advisors.

Professional Attachments

De Zamaróczy points to the Professional Attachment Program as one of the Center’s most successful efforts. For over three years now, East AFRITAC has been organizing professional attachments. These attachments allow select staff from various East African agencies to be detailed for several weeks to preeminent organizations in order to develop skills and learn best practices, which can be implemented upon their return to their home country. Under the program, attachés acquire practical exposure to specialized and highly technical aspects of their work, which ranges from legal and regulatory aspects of banking supervisory frameworks to tax administration compliance and enforcement units or to public financial management and macro-statistics.

Both the workshops and the professional attachment program continue to elicit favorable reviews from participants, who have said they provide an effective way to develop regional competencies and ensure the sustainability of capacity-building efforts.

"In one case we sent an official from the Banking Supervision Department of the Bank of Tanzania (BOT) on an attachment program. The purpose of the attachment was to review bank supervision practices in the host agency. Our attachés are required to produce a report at the end of their secondment with a view to "bringing home" some of the best practices they have witnessed. So this particular attaché did produce a report on his attachment’s findings. The report turned out to be quite interesting and we decided to make it into one of our "East AFRITAC Field Manuals," which is our in-house publication series where we try to distill and share what we learn in our capacity-building efforts. But rather than drafting the manual ourselves, we asked the official to do it himself under the guidance of our bank supervision resident advisor, who by then was in the process of leaving AFE after four years. I was amazed by the enthusiasm of this official who was given an opportunity to shape bank supervision processes in BOT and in the region, and the commitment of the outgoing and incoming bank supervision advisors to work together with him, often over the internet, to make this project a success. The official spent some of his vacation time to produce the draft, which we sent to the central banks in the region for comments and inputs. The manual was published in March 2009, and was prefaced by the Governor of the Bank of Tanzania." —Mario de Zamaróczy, East AFRITAC Coordinator

    Evaluating performance

Independent evaluations of the AFRITACs are conducted about very three years as part of the AFRITAC model’s good governance. The report of the second independent evaluation of the AFRITACs was released in March 2009. The evaluation team visited IMF headquarters in Washington, D.C., the three AFRITACs (East, West and Central), and eight member countries in the three regions covered by the Centers. Using an electronic survey that yielded more than 700 responses, the report’s findings were particularly robust.

According to de Zamaróczy "the main findings of this second evaluation confirmed earlier findings, namely that the AFRITACs ‘delivered high quality technical assistance in an effective and efficient manner.’" He also noted that "the evaluation team found that the technical assistance delivered by the AFRITACs was ‘responsive’ to countries’ needs and was ‘owned’ by the countries."

For the past three years, the East AFRITAC has published an Annual Report. According to de Zamaróczy, this has increased outreach and visibility, but it is also expected of a donor-funded program of its size. "Our latest report contains eight testimonials from our clients who have appreciated our services last year, as well as several illustrations of some of our success stories."

Reflections

Over three years into his assignment, de Zamaróczy is passionate in his contemplations on the experience. "This an exciting job, as it provides many rewards in terms of the strong appreciation of our clients and a large amount of autonomy in terms of setting agendas and aligning the corresponding delivery means, while brining together many stakeholders. It is also a job that is in an area of growth—the number of regional technical assistance centers is set to grow, and each center’s size is also set to grow. So it is not surprising that the share of technical assistance delivered through the regional centers has been rising over the last years, and if the sought funding is secured, it may continue to do so."