Transforming Financial Markets in Developing Countries

International fellows begin the second year of the IFC-Milken Institute Capital Markets Program at the George Washington University.

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The second anniversary of the IFC-Milken Institute Capital Markets program was celebrated at GW's Duques Hall.
September 01, 2017

By B.L. Wilson

The second cohort of IFC-Milken Institute Capital Markets fellows includes 21 mid-career professionals from 15 developing countries, primarily in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean such as Nigeria, Mongolia, Haiti and Pakistan.

The fellows are a highly selective group from the ministries of finance, central banks and regulatory agencies chosen to develop expertise in building capital markets that will lead to economic prosperity.

As the fellows emerged from a two-week boot camp on the fundamentals of finance, George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc welcomed them at a reception in Duques Hall, Tuesday evening.

“We’re confident that this group of fellows includes the next group of leaders who will confront these challenges head on as the agents of change in their home countries,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

“Our home here in the heart of Washington with our talented faculty and access to international finance experts and practitioners provides our fellows with an immersive, one-of-a kind, hands-on and eyes-wide-open opportunity that we call ‘OnlyAtGW’ moments,” he said.

The program provides four months of a rigorous academic foundation at the GW School of Business, followed by another four months of practical experience through internships--a comprehensive tool-kit for creating polices that will help the private sector in their home countries grow and develop.

Michael Klowden, the CEO of the Milken Institute, explained that the link between human capital and prosperity is the driving force behind the program created in partnership with the university and the IFC, a member of the World Bank group.

“We believe in the power of capital markets to solve urgent social and economic challenges and to improve lives,” he said, noting that financial markets entail some risk and are dormant and underutilized in many countries.

“Capital markets require well-informed, committed policymakers and capable investors. That’s why you’re here,” Mr. Klowden said.

The fellows come from countries whose markets are at different levels and phases of development and face country-specific challenges. For example, Liberia is one of the last countries to engage in capital markets, while Pakistan is an emerging market ranked by Bloomberg as one of the top five in the world.

IFC’s Vice President and Treasurer Jingdong Hua highlighted the importance of capital markets using the example of China and the extraordinary growth of its bond market, now worth $9 trillion including a $3 trillion corporate bond market. The development of deep, vibrant capital markets has transformed the Chinese economy, landed many of its companies at the top of global indexes and financed vital infrastructure projects – like the vast bullet train network, noted Mr. Hua.

“A capital market is not a luxury for any country. It is a necessity. Without it you cannot thrive,” he said.

This joint program has been developed to fill the critical human capacity gap in countries that are looking to build their capital markets.

“This program will give you a solid academic foundation, practical experience through the internships and access to a wide network of practitioners and experts in the field,” Mr. Hua said. “You can take this well-rounded experience back to your home countries and champion the development of robust capital markets, thereby creating more jobs and unleashing the full economic potential of the country.”

Leah Kusensela, a fellow from the Zambia Securities and Exchange Commission, said that there are less than 30 companies on her country’s stock exchange, mainly because there is not very much awareness or investment from the country’s private sector, leaving the market vulnerable to fluctuations in the global economy. She hopes the program will help her develop the analytical tools to reform regulatory policy that will increase activity in Zambia’s market.

In the meantime, Iftikhar Ahmed Tari of Pakistan’s Central Bank said he is looking to find more long-term stability in the country’s bond markets that are currently very passive. He wants to study the different types of bonds, their features and the evaluation techniques for developing different products and policies for regulating them.

In the second half of the program, the fellows will put their knowledge into practice with hands-on work experience in various U.S. public and private institutions, ranging from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to companies such as Vista Equity Partners, WorldQuant and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

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