Former Liberian finance minister Antoinette Sayeh has been appointed deputy managing director of the Washington D.C.-based International Monetary Fund, which oversees the international monetary system.
Sayeh has worked for the IMF before. She spent eight years there as the head of the IMF’s Africa department before joining the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit think tank the Center for Global Development as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in 2016.
Her new job is assisting IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva, according to an IMF press release.
The IMF monitors the financial and economic policies of its member governments around the world. Of the 189 IMF members, 54 are in Africa.
Sayeh was the Liberian finance minister between 2006 and 2008 before running the IMF’s Africa department from 2008 until she left the organization in 2016, Reuters reports. She was the first woman to head the department.
Through the IMF, Sayeh was involved in providing emergency financing and debt relief to the three countries hit by the Ebola crisis in 2014 — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
She earned a degree in economics and a Ph.D. in international economic relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
The IMF is particularly concerned about its African members and their ability to pay back their debts.
Around 40 percent of African countries are in debt distress compared with 2013, when 20 percent of African countries were at high risk of debt distress, WorldFinance reported.
In October 2019, the IMF said that Eritrea, Gambia, Mozambique, Congo Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan and Zimbabwe are in debt distress, according to Reuters.
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Other sub-Saharan African countries including Zambia, Ghana, and Cameroon are considered to be at high risk of debt distress.
From 2012 to 2017, Chinese loans to countries in sub-Saharan Africa grew tenfold to more than $10 billion per year. Critics have accused China of extending unsustainable loans to developing countries.