Young, locally-trained economists guide Francophone Africa towards a more prosperous future

July 31, 2017

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A teacher in a class room

UNU-WIDER

SERIES: STRENGTHENING ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Banata Tchale Sow, the Republic of Chad's Secretary of State for Finance and Budget, attributes her career success to a program she entered after a rigorous selection process in 1994 and that she completed two years later, earning a post-graduate degree in macroeconomics.

Sow is a graduate of the Programme de Troisième Cycle Inter-Universitaire (PTCI, Interuniversity Graduate Program), administered by a network of 18 economics-focussed education and research institutions. Founded with IDRC's support, PTCI provides local training to high-level economists to help offset the shortage of experts in Francophone Africa, which is frequently cited as one of the main obstacles to development efforts in these countries. 

“I can say that PTCI has made me what I am today: a Francophone African woman fighting my battles without complaint and moving toward my goals by finding the resources I need to achieve them,” says Sow.

A critical mass of graduates

Between 1994 and 2017, the program produced more than 2,500 economists who are well-versed in leading-edge analysis techniques. PTCI has successfully built a reputation for excellence with its competitive recruitment and highly qualified graduates.

Follow-up with former students shows that the vast majority (87%) of graduates choose to pursue their careers within Francophone Africa, holding positions as advisors, directors, secretaries-general or other influential roles at institutions in their respective countries. Some, like Sow, are appointed to strategic positions in senior public administration or at one of the sub‑region’s two central banks.

Leading the way toward sustainable development

PTCI’s contribution to the economic and social development of Africa’s Francophone nations, including Madagascar, is significant. PTCI was established in 1994 by the Conférence des Institutions d’Enseignement et de Recherches en économiques et de gestion en Afrique (CIEREA, Conference of educational institutions and of economic and management research in Africa), a network that originated in the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s. States participating in these programs receive conditional loans from international institutions to promote free trade and economic competitiveness in exchange for a drastic reduction of social expenditures.

The PTCI responded by developing a strategy based on the pooling of national human resources to train graduate and post-graduate students in economics across the entire region. The program seeks to address the lack of research professors and skilled economists/managers who conduct rigorous research and implement strategies for sustainable development in Francophone African countries, some of which are among the poorest in the world both financially and in terms of human development.

Revenue crisis management

Regional economies, which are heavily dependent on natural resource exploitation, are avidly pursuing inclusive growth that generates real opportunities for women and children. In Francophone countries across the region, PTCI graduates are making contributions to this effort.

In her role as Secretary of State for Finance and Budget, for example, Sow is responsible for proposing innovative solutions to compensate for Chad's drop in oil revenue, from which the bulk of government revenue is derived. With the highest infant mortality rate in the world in 2009, it is clear that Chad will only reach its sustainable development goals if a long-term solution is found for the budget crisis that was triggered by falling oil prices in international markets. Sow is following the example of her colleague in Côte d’Ivoire, Yeo Nahoua, to identify a solution.

Like Chad, Côte d’Ivoire is currently watching its double-digit growth outlook shrink due to a decline in cocoa prices on the global market. Since Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest cocoa producer, it is essential to reassess development plans and identify alternative scenarios for funding its development. Using the technical expertise he acquired through PTCI, Yeo Nahoua, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Planning and Development of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, is currently leading the team responsible for finding solutions to ensure that sustainable development goals are reached.

The backbone of faculties of economics

The follow-up study among PTCI graduates revealed that program alumni are also involved in educating young women and men. Making up 50% to 90% of the economics faculties at universities across the region, these graduates are making significant contributions to the university-level education and support of young African Francophones.

At the University of Yaoundé II in Cameroon, for example, 90% of the 21 assistant professors hired in the last two years are from PTCI. At Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, 74% of the full-time instructors in the economics department are PTCI graduates. Numerous dean and associate dean positions at universities in Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Congo, and Burkina Faso are also occupied by former PTCI students.

Strategic support

IDRC's ongoing technical and financial support over the course of more than 20 years — despite a loss of interest among traditional donors to education and capacity-building programs — has helped PTCI pursue its mission and objectives.

In addition to the Canadian expertise regularly leveraged for tasks such as giving lessons to students, PTCI has repeatedly benefited from the support of resource persons in designing strategic and resource mobilization plans and from networking with Canadian universities. Canadian cooperation through IDRC and PTCI is helping to build a more fair and prosperous world in accordance with fundamental Canadian values.

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