New center aims to strengthen East Africa's capacity to manage economic policies


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Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa's remarks on the inauguration of East AFRITAC could not have been clearer or more emphatic.

If Africa is to define its own economic destiny, it must strengthen its ability to design and implement sound economic policies. And policy ownership and capacity building are what the new regional technical assistance center, which opened October 24 in Dar es Salaam, is all about.

The East Africa Regional Technical Assistance Center, or East AFRITAC, whose member countries are Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, is one of the first products of Africa's request for help in strengthening institutions and in designing and implementing better policies, notably within the context of its New Partnership for Africa's Development. The AFRITAC concept-the development of regional centers for capacity-building technical assistance-is the central component of the response by the IMF and its donor partners, which, as of today, are China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the African Development Bank. Two AFRITACs are planned for the near term. East AFRITAC is the first to open; another center, serving francophone west African countries, is expected to open in earlyPage 354 2003. If an independent study, to be conducted in 18 months, deems the two centers effective, additional ones will be established.

The AFRITAC initiative builds on efforts already under way in Africa, notably the Partnership for Capacity Building in Africa and its implementing agency, the African Capacity-Building Foundation, the latter of which the IMF joined earlier this year. The attention to capacity building is also linked to IMF and World Bank efforts, in cooperation with donor partners, to build country ownership of poverty reduction efforts, particularly in the context of the participatory policy design process associated with poverty reduction strategy papers, or PRSPs.

There are those in the world, Mkapa noted, who still think that poor countries seeking aid from the IMF and the World Bank, to paraphrase Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Charge of the Light Brigade," have "no right to ask, no right to reply, no right to reason; only to do and die in the valley of economic bondage and assured death of sovereignty."Nothing could be further from the truth, he said. East AFRITAC reflects "unprecedented mutual respect" between the IMF and African countries, and its members intend to use East AFRITAC's assistance "to self-develop, to plan strategically, to ask the right questions, to reply intelligently to questions about the decisions we make, to reason deeply and logically, and certainly not to do and die at...

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