International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde will visit Nigeria and Niger on December 18-22 on her first visit to Africa while leading the crisis lender, the IMF said Monday.
Lagarde will meet policymakers and representatives of the private sector and civil society to discuss challenges facing African countries, the Fund said.
A visit to African countries definitely seems due, both for Lagarde’s political standing in the region and as recognition of the continent’s economic importance. Lagarde won support from a number of African states in her bid for the IMF’s top seat earlier this year. Yet major candidates from the developing world, including former South African finance minister Trevor Manuel, were critical of how the race unfolded.
Manuel criticized a process in which European leaders lined up behind Lagarde before even knowing who else might be interested in the job, and said “the world is not at a point” at which the IMF head can be chosen solely on merit.
Nigeria and Niger seem like solid choices to me. Nigeria is unquestionably one of the continent’s economic powerhouses, while Niger is a symbol of both potential (the country recently began producing oil) and problems (food insecurity in particular).
It will be interesting to see what comes of the visit, and how the press in each country reacts.