INTERVIEW with Jean-Baptiste Le Hen: "When we think of French-speaking recruitment, we think of CERDI"

Published on September 4, 2023 Updated on September 5, 2023

on the March 25, 2022

Some career paths of CERDI alumni. Jean-Baptiste Le Hen, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Interview with Jean-Baptiste Le Hen "When we think of French-speaking recruitment, we think of CERDI."

At the time of the interview, Jean-Baptiste Le Hen was based at the IMF's European Representation in Brussels, Belgium.

What position do you currently hold?

I currently work in Brussels, I am the only person seconded from the IMF to the EU to coordinate development and cooperation policies. My duties will end in Brussels next year. I will then return to Washington, since I have been a Senior Economist at the IMF for almost 15 years. .

Are you part of the GERD/ Alumni association?

Yes, the Alumni association is interesting. It seems to me that other alumni associations have emerged, though unsuccessfully. This one seems more solid. Its interest would be to make the network work, in particular for masters level executives trained at CERDI as part of the training in Economie Policy Management (GPE) and for other students. CERDI fulfills an important mission via GPE training. It is a mission entrusted to it by the World Bank, and ultimately, this results in a large network. For alumni like me, the CERDI Alumni association makes it possible to know who occupies which position, in which geographical area, and in which institution. This facilitates working relations thereafter, not necessarily by promoting co-operation, but rather because when Cerdians find themselves in professional life, it serves to break the ice and to know that we have a common foundation. With a common base, we save a lot of time and win trust.

What brought you to CERDI? 

I spent 8 years at CERDI, in several episodes, as a student, and as a lecturer. I arrived at CERD I after Cachan, I was looking for a postgraduate degree, in particular on the development of Africa. I myself grew up in Africa. After my postgraduate degree, I stayed at CERDI as a doctoral student. This is the best place for a PhD in economic development. I' d say the 2nd year of my Masters was a test year. I really enjoyed myself and decided to stay.

In your opinion, what place does CERDI occupy internationally?

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lt stands in 9th place ahead of Harvard and tied with Geneva. Both at the IMF and the World Bank, when we think of French-speaking recruitment, we think of CERDI. lt's legitimate. The training is very rigorous and demanding. There is a lot of maths and econometrics, and the number of doctoral students is its strength. Since there are a lot of doctoral students, this creates a mass effect. CERDI does well because it is a good school, with a solid reputation. lt is highly valued in French-speaking Africa, and the best students come to train here. These are very good people who go on to have brilliant careers. 

Do you have a particular anecdote about CERDI? 

For 4 years I was the IMF resident representative in Burkina Faso. I regularly met a senior local official with whom I exchanged in the course of our duties. After a year, we realized that we had both studied at CERDI. The relationship immediately became much less formai. We shared the same memories of student life, the same impressions of Clermont Ferrand, and places to meet - ail of this in the heart of Africa. 

What advice would you give to a student?

Many students imagine that they will do humanitarian work or work in NGOs. Sorne are disappointed when they arrive, doing maths and statistics, it can seem very difficult and we do not always see the connection to development. But the connection exists and one should not be put off by these subjects. The challenge may be to better explain how these subjects, and this point of view, are important for development. lt is a necessary passage. lt structures and it is an essential basis for work, a necessary theoretical step which should not be a deterrent to students. At the academic level, CERDI is a center of excellence. lt conducts top-level research. Today, a generational change is taking place, but the common thread is the CERDI state of mind, and it is a good one.