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Understanding sovereign debt – options and opportunities for Africa

A practical Guide for public debt managers and others involved in public financial management in Africa.

Led by the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), Yannis Manuelides co-wrote together with other world leading sovereign debt experts and commentators a continent-specific handbook. The handbook can be downloaded here (in English) and here (in French) or directly from the ALSF website here.

The handbook serves as an accessible, practical guide for public debt managers and others involved in public financial management in Africa, and will empower these individuals by demystifying the complex concepts and terminology related to sovereign debt.

Both the “art” and “science” of public debt management are explored in the handbook. Specifically, the handbook discusses the technical, financial and legal aspects related to debt instruments and the markets in which they are traded, as well as how public debt managers develop and implement strategies related to debt financing, tools and methods that can be employed to prevent debt distress, and significantly, what to do if a crisis does occur.

The overarching theme guiding the development of this handbook was “fire prevention as opposed to firefighting” in the world of African sovereign debt; advocating the early engagement of professional advisors to assist governments, not only in times of crisis, but also in the formulation of robust debt management systems, the establishment of processes and institutions and building capacity. The concepts contained in the handbook will be expanded upon through ALSF regional and bespoke national training programmes.

The team of experts who penned the handbook was composed of lawyers, financial advisors, economists and academics from around the world with extensive experience in debt issuances, debt sustainability and debt restructuring. These experts included trusted advisors to sovereigns, state-owned enterprises and central banks; who have represented governments such as Greece, Ukraine, Mozambique and the Republic of Congo. The voices and opinions of key stakeholders on the continent were represented by West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) with contributions from the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute of Eastern and Southern Africa (MEFMI) and the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI).

“Understanding Sovereign Debt – Options and Opportunities for Africa” will be disseminated to African governments, debt management offices and central banks. In addition to English and French, the handbook will be made available in Portuguese and Arabic.

Contributing Authors: Yannis Manuelides (Allen & Overy LLP), Ian Clark (White & Case LLP), Jill Dauchy (Potomac Group LLC), Michael Doran (Baker & McKenzie LLP), Michele Lamarche (Lazard), Yan Liu (International Monetary Fund), Dr Baba Musa (WAIFEM), Shakira Mustapha (U.K. Overseas Development Institute), Professor Rodrigo Olivares-Caminal (Queen Mary University of London), Mohamed Badissy (CDLP U.S. Dept. of Commerce), Sean Hagan (visiting professor at Queen Mary University of London and former General Counsel of the IMF).