Director, Center for Policy and Economic Research
Focus: Reconciling Economic Policy and Institution-Building Goals, Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations, Civil Service
Keywords: technical assistance, patronage, donor relations, depoliticization, corruption
Interviewer(s): Itumeleng Makgetla
Country of Reform: Nigeria
Location: Abuja, Nigeria
Date: Fri Aug 28 2009
Obadiah Mailafia recounts his experiences as the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, where he was responsible for monetary policy, statistics, economic analysis and relations with regional and international institutions. His governorship came at a time of financial flux in the country, and Mailafia participated and led a number of progressive reforms. The three that he emphasizes were the consolidation of the banking system, the establishment of a policy support instrument in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund, and the negotiations with the Paris Club for debt relief. These reforms, in particular the consolidation and overhaul of the banking system, met strong and sometimes violent resistance, but reformers attempted to maintain public support by maintaining openness and transparency, engaging with the press along the way. The reform was nonetheless slow and was susceptible to cults of personality, corruption and changes in government that left efforts vulnerable to backfire or failure. Mailafia also identifies areas of the Nigerian civil service that require training and capacity building, particularly information technology and statistics services as well as leadership training. He credits much of the central bank's success to the open and team-like community he cultivated with his employees, whom he describes as the brightest in the civil service.
Full InterviewDownload MP3 (66 MB)
Obadiah Mailafia Interview
At the time of this interview, Obadiah Mailafia was the director of the Center for Policy and Economic Research, a Nigerian macroeconomics and public policy think tank that he founded. Mailafia studied economics at the Institut International d’Administration Publique (of l’École Nationale d’Administration) in France, and went on to earn his doctorate in economic development and international relations at Oriel College of Oxford. He taught at the American University of London and at Regent’s Business School before he joined the African Development Bank, first in Côte d’Ivoire and then Tunisia. He received the Mamoun Beheiry Award for distinguished service to the ADB Group. In 2005, Mailafia was invited back to his native Nigeria to serve as the deputy governor of the central bank, a post that he held until 2007. He was briefly a senior policy adviser to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the rank of Minister of State. After this interview, Mailafia was appointed chief of staff at the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States in Brussels.