Antoinette Sayeh: the woman who rescued Liberia from a sea of debt

Theodora Aidoo Mar 13, 2020 at 10:30am

March 13, 2020 at 10:30 am | Opinions & Features, Women

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

March 13, 2020 at 10:30 am | Opinions & Features, Women

Pic Credit: liberiapublicradio.com

Dr. Antoinette Sayeh is a Liberian economist who led the country to clear its long-standing multilateral debt arrears. She started her career as a civil servant in Liberia’s Ministries of Finance and Planning.

She served as Minister of Finance in post-conflict Liberia from January 2006 through June 2008, becoming the second woman in Liberia’s history to hold that position after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  

She holds a BA in economics from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in international economic relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University in the USA.

She successfully aided Liberia’s effort to meet the requirements of HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries), leading the international lenders to cancel the US$4 billion debt of the country.

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Pic Credit: REUTERS/Noor Khamis

She spent 17 years in various senior positions at the World Bank. During her tenure, she had to deal with a dysfunctional Bank of Central African States (BEAC), manage the crisis between the IMF and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).

Dr. Sayeh headed the Africa Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for eight years from 2008 to 2016, becoming the first woman to head the department.

As the Head of Africa Department of the IMF, she reportedly led a “profound transformation of the relationship between the IMF and our African members”.

For four years, the former Liberian Finance Minister was a visiting researcher at the International Development Research Centre in Canada, which is associated with the World Bank.

The 62-year-old has recently been appointed as the IMF Deputy Managing Director, making her the first African to hold that position after Alassane Ouattara, Ivorian President who was the organization’s Deputy Managing Director from 1994 to 1999.

In a statement IMF Managing Director, chief Kristalina Georgieva said: “Antoinette demonstrates a rare combination of institutional leadership, deep analytical capacity, and an unwavering commitment to fairness.

“I have always been impressed by her genuine care for the well-being of the people we serve and her ability to place them front and center in our efforts”.

“I personally have known and worked with her for many years in a wide range of positions that she has held. I look forward to working closely with her again as she joins the management team,” she said.

Since 2016 she has been a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and was also the external Co-Chair for the recently concluded 19th Replenishment of the World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA19).

Her new appointment takes effect from March 16, 2020.

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