K. Y. Amoako

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Kingsley Y. Amoako (b. 1944 Accra) is a Ghanaian-born international civil servant with a career spanning more than four decades, K.Y. Amoako has contributed with passion and energy to Africa’s ongoing development. He is a highly respected thought leader on policies and initiatives that have led to improved governance and growth on the continent, and he has worked alongside some of the world’s prominent development specialists to tackle the most pressing African and global development issues.

Early career[edit]

After obtaining a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California-Berkeley in 1974, Amoako began his career at the World Bank. At the time, the Bank employed very few Africans, but it impacted much of the continent’s destiny through lending policies that were not always favorable to Africa. Amoako quickly rose through the ranks to become Division Chief for Country Programs in the Africa Region and also Division Chief for Sector Programs in the Latin America and Caribbean Region. Over a ten-year period, he developed a knack for turning around Bank operations in several countries—and for navigating the local politics of reforms, earning trust and gaining influence with African leaders like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda as they led their countries through years of tumultuous economic changes.

In the early 1990s, the Bank began to shift its focus by placing greater emphasis on poverty reduction and underserved but vital economic and social development issues, such as gender equality. To provide intellectual leadership in these areas, guide operational staff at the country-level, and collaborate more effectively with United Nations agencies and other development institutions, the Bank created the Department of Education and Social Policy in 1992. Amoako was appointed its first director. He led a group of 40 economists and sector specialists in producing major Bank policy papers on poverty, gender, social protection, labor markets, and education that were endorsed by the World Bank’s Executive Directors. Some of them broke new ground in their approach to internal Bank operations. Others provided a foundation for the Bank’s contribution to landmark UN conferences—notably the Copenhagen Summit of Social Development (1995) and Beijing’s Fourth World Conference on Women (1995).

UN career[edit]

In 1995, then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed Amoako as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the level of Under-Secretary General. He gave Amoako a mandate to transform the institution into an influential voice for Africa and an effective player in global development. Amoako’s appointment came at a critical time for Africa. After decades of economic stagnation, civil unrest, and political turmoil, there were indications that the continent’s fortunes could turn around with a stronger commitment to better governance and increased support from development partners. Unfortunately, the ECA, which boasted a rich history as a top African institution, was not in a position to meet its mandate due to years of ineffective operations. Within two years of his appointment, Amoako implemented sweeping reforms to remake the institution. Boutros-Ghali later commended the ECA for being “at the vanguard of reform in the United Nations.”

Under Amoako’s leadership, the ECA capitalized on its renewal to promote significant economic and social policy advances in Africa at the turn of the century. Notably, the ECA:

  • Advocated strongly for the African position on issues such as debt, trade and development finance by producing highly regarded policy papers and reports and actively engaged in international discussions on these subjects.
  • Championed governance as a prerequisite to economic and social advancement and produced the first continent-wide indicators to measure and track progress.
  • Created the African Development Forums as an open exchange of ideas between heads of states, policymakers, civil society, and development partners. The ADFs helped raise awareness, create consensus, and push for action to bring Africa into the Internet age, confront the HIV/AIDS pandemic, strive for gender equality, and open African skies and transport infrastructure.
  • Provided the technical and analytical supportfor the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), an initiative conceived by African leaders and endorsed by donors that aimed to be a new blueprint for Africa’s development. The ECA also provided the key inputs for NEPAD’s most notable component, the African Peer Review Mechanism, which then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2001 called “a landmark instrument” for promoting better political and economic policies.
  • Convened annually “the big table” meeting between African ministers of finance and planning, development cooperation ministers from OECD countries—including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden,and the United Kingdom—and senior officials of multilateral development agencies. The meetings provided a unique and groundbreaking opportunity for OECD and African ministers to speak directly to one another in an informal setting, and to build consensus on major development partnership issues. Big table discussions around the quantity and quality of aid continue to influence the global agenda for aid effectiveness even today.

At the African Center for Economic Transformation[1]

In 2008, Amoako founded the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) based in Accra to help African governments transform their economies for sustained growth and poverty reduction. Subsequently, ACET has laid out a clear vision for African countries, identified the most promising sector-specific pathways to transformation, and identified the policy and institutional reforms required to get there. Diverse stakeholders have praised the ACET approach, and several African countries are now recasting their development strategies through the prism of economic transformation. A growing number of governments and international organizations are reaching out to ACET with requests for advice, assistance, and collaboration to implement a transformation agenda.

Over the past twenty years, Amoako has served on many high-level commissions and task forces alongside or at the request of some of the world’s most prominent development experts and leaders. These task forces and commissions have tackled Africa’s current and future challenges as well as some of the world’s most pressing development issues. They include:

  • Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa—Chaired by Amoako, the Commission was established in 2003 by Kofi Annan. The commission had a mandate to clarify the data on the impact of HIV/AIDS on state structures and economic development and to assist governments in consolidating the design and implementation of policies and programs to help govern the epidemic. Other members included Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia, and Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS.
  • Commission for Africa—Set up in 2004 and chaired by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair to promote development in Africa, the commission published its report, “Our Common Interest,” in 2005. Many of the recommendations were taken up by the G8 at its summit in Gleneagles later that year, and in other commitments made to Africa.
  • Commission on Macroeconomics and Health— The Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (CMH) was established by then WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland in January 2000 to assess the contribution of health to global economic development. Prof. Jeffrey Sachs chaired the commission.
  • International Task Force on Global Public Goods—Established in 2003 by the Swedish and French governments on the heels of the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development, the task force provided a definition of global public goods, identified global public goods critical for poverty reduction, and proposed recommendations to enhance their provision and financing. Ernesto Zedillo, the former President of Mexico, served as chair.
  • Commission on Capital Flows to Africa—Jointly assembled in September 2002 by the Corporate Council on Africa and the Institute for International Economics and chaired by James A. Harmon, former chairman of the US Export-Import Bank, the Commission published a “Ten-Year Strategy for Increasing Capital Flows to Africa” to help boost capital and private sector investment from the United States. A notable member of the Commission was Susan E. Rice, current National Security Advisor to Barack Obama.
  • High-Level Trade Experts Group—Set up by David Cameron and Angela Merkel to revitalize the Doha Round of trade talks and lobby for strong political commitment during the Seoul G20 summit to liberalize trade, the group was led by Peter Sutherland, the former Director-General of the WTO, and Jagdish Bhagwati, a renowned professor of economics at Columbia University.

Speaking at a meeting of African finance ministers in 1997, Amoako declared himself “an optimist for Africa”—a sentiment later supported by Kofi Annan, who added: “But optimism should not be mistaken for romanticism; rather it is tempered by realism even as we strive continuously for improvements in the human condition.”


He obtained his B.A. (Hons) from the University of Ghana and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley. In recognition of his contribution to Africa’s development, in 2003, he was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa by the Addis Ababa University,[2] and a Doctor of Letters degree, honoris causa by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, in May, 2005.


  1. ^ "K. Y. Amoako | ACET". African Center for Economic Transformation. Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  2. ^ "K. Y. Amoako (biography)". United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Retrieved 21 December 2010.