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Pan-African Postcard

Change at IMF overdue

Muadi Mukenge

2009-04-23, Issue 429

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In an open letter addressed to US President Obama, Muadi Mukenge calls on his administration to enter into dialogue with African and Africa activists to address ‘how change can come to the IMF and other instruments of economic policy that the US supports’. Despite evidence that the IMF’s economic policies for Africa have left the continent worse today than it was 30 years ago, the G20 Summit has recommended the injection of significant funding into IMF to rectify endemic poverty in developing regions. Mukenge argues that if the G20 decides to prioritise new funding to the IMF to address an economic crisis – which in Africa dates 20 years – the IMF’s ‘philosophy and modalities must change’.

Dear President Obama,

I observed and listened keenly during the recently concluded G20 Summit and your Town Hall meeting in Strasbourg, France. I appreciate the message that the global economic crisis must be addressed holistically and with partners across borders, sectors, and populations to curb the practices in greed, excess, and exploitation. As part of your message, you acknowledged that poverty in developing regions is deep and has the possibility of breeding hopelessness. I venture to say the levels of poverty are inhumane and have placed an entire generation in peril. It is therefore a disappointment that one of the recommendations of the G20 Summit is to inject significant funding into the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to rectify the endemic poverty in developing regions.

One of the things I admired about your book Dreams from my father is how you aptly captured the cultural, economic, and political dynamics in Kenya during your visit to your family. You were detailed and accurate in descriptions of how histories of colonialism, quasi-independence, corruption and lack of people-centred policies in Kenya were impacting even members of your family. These realities must be linked to the disastrous policies of the IMF across the African continent.

By its own admission, the IMF has implemented inappropriate economic policies in Africa that have left the continent worse today than it was 30 years ago. The studies, data, and analyses have been shared and debated widely. If the G20 prioritises new funding to the IMF to address an economic crisis, which in Africa dates 20 years, the IMF’s philosophy and modalities must change. Many Americans, including myself, listened attentively to your message of change during your presidential campaign and your inauguration speech. As an African living in the US, with many other Africans and Africa activists working on political and economic advocacy, we want to dialogue with your administration to address how change can come to the IMF and other instruments of economic policy that the US supports. We are responding to your invitation to be part of the Change agenda by doing our part. We invite the administration to avail itself of the alternative economic proposals that will enable Africans to live a life of dignity and purpose. Africa’s wealth in natural resources is not reflected in its infrastructure, food availability, educational institutions, and overall well-being of its people, yet those resources benefit the West immensely. In order for Africa to regain its dignity and emerge from its perpetual ‘developing’ status, we must adopt strategies of scale that depart from how IMF has traditionally worked. We call upon African leaders to be accountable, and we invite your administration to broaden its view of the possible strategies needed to reverse economic deprivation in Africa.

Africans in America want to be part of the Change agenda. Along with the magazine covers of your Change agenda that we have in our homes and offices, we would love to add a cover that says ‘Change Has Come to the IMF’.

* Muadi Mukenge is the regional director for sub-Saharan Africa at the
Global Fund for Women, a board member of Priority Africa Network and
advisor to New Field Foundation.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

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