Antoinette Sayeh, director of the International Monetary Fund’s African Department, is to retire later this year.
The fund announced yesterday that her eight-year tenure will officially come to an end this August. Sayeh had played an “enormously influential” role in shaping the IMF’s relationships with African countries, it said.
Sayeh joined the fund in 2008, as the global financial crisis and surging food and fuel prices were bearing down on living standards across the continent.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said Sayeh “navigated these and later challenges with her trademark skills of quiet, effective diplomacy, deep analytical capability and an unrivalled understanding of the challenges facing her continent”.
Sayeh and her team contributed to the reform of the fund’s concessional lending facilities in 2010, and later to the overhaul of its debt limits policy.
The IMF said more reforms have since followed, including changes that allowed the fund to provide emergency financing and debt relief to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as the Ebola crisis took hold.
Sayeh also oversaw efforts to improve the effectiveness of the fund’s technical assistance in Africa, with a sharper focus on institution building in fragile states especially.
Her work at the fund was shaped by her previous experiences in the Liberian Ministries of Finance and Planning, including as finance minister, a post she held following the conflict, from 2006-08.
During that time, she helped the country clear its long-standing arrears with international creditors, implement its first poverty-reduction strategy and significantly strengthen its public finances by championing public financial management reform.
Before that, Sayeh worked for the World Bank for 17 years, serving as country director for Benin, Niger and Togo and country economist for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Lagarde said Sayeh has been “a great leader of the African Department, a respected colleague, a friend and a mentor to many”.
“Her dedication is unparalleled and her contribution to the fund has been truly outstanding,” she continued.
The fund said a search for a suitable successor would begin straight away.