University at Albany

Rockefeller Hosts Sierra Leone Minister of Finance and Economic Development

Dr. Kaifala Marah, minister of finance and economic development for the government of Sierra Leone and a 2003 graduate of Rockefeller College, was the featured speaker at the latest installment of the Rockefeller College Leaders in Public Service Speakers Series, Wednesday, April 22 on the University's downtown campus.  The program was moderated by Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy.

Dr. Marah, credited for introducing fiscal discipline in budget execution in his home country of Sierra Leone. addressed an audience of more than 100 students, faculty members, alumni, and community leaders at Rockefeller on the topic of the challenges faced by many developing countries, including economic recovery, post-conflict peacebuilding and statebuilding, poverty eradication, and public health crises such as Ebola.

(From left) Interim Dean Karl Rethemeyer, Dr. Kaifala
Marah, Kate Breslin, and Senator Neil Breslin.
"Eye opening," is how Corina Simonelli, a Rockefeller alumna who received her bachelor's degree in political science from Rockefeller in 2013, described the program.  "I wasn't well informed on Sierra Leone's political and economic landscape and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn about the country and apply those lessons to my understanding of other countries in the region," said Corina.  "I was impressed with Dr. Marah's passion for his country and the innovative ways they are seeking to improve its economic health. I was very surprised about the significant toll that the Ebola crisis took on Sierra Leone's economy."  Current Rockefeller MPA student Eryn Trowbridge concurred.  "Dr. Marah's talk was a rare opportunity for me to hear directly from those who govern internationally. I came to the event to better understand the unique challenges faced in public administration in the Global South. It was an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the problems specific to Sierra Leone, such as Ebola, the resulting economic climate and poverty, from a Sierra Leonean who truly understands and deals with the real impacts of these issues," said Erin.  "What really caught my attention was the fact that this was someone who was using their degree from Rockefeller College to not just help run a country, but really be a change agent in a part of the world where strong leadership is greatly needed," noted alumnus Michael Cassidy (BA '08, MPA '10), senior advisor, Brown & Weinraub, PLLC. ​

Prior to his appointment as minister, Dr. Marah was chief of staff to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, and on record as Sierra Leone's first chief of staff in the presidency. He previously served as public finance advisor at the Commonwealth Secretariat, where he provided technical and advisory services to developing member countries, operationalized the Abuja Mandate of the Commonwealth Heads of Government on public financial management, and developed a government self-assessment toolkit for developing member countries.  While pursuing graduate studies in the United States, Dr. Marah worked as a legislative aide, conducting budget analysis for the New York State Senate.  He also was a graduate fellow at the University at Albany's Center for International Development (SUNY/CID).

Dr. Marah is  a ​recipient of the prestigious Excellence in International Student Leadership award from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy (2003); the Africa Young Leadership Award (2012) South Africa; and the National Excellence and Role Model for Youth Award (2011), in Freetown, Sierra Leone. His experience in public sector leadership and transformation commenced as deputy town clerk Koidu/New Sembehun Town Council, and spans more than a decade.

Kaifala Marah earned a bachelor's degree from Fourah Bay College, Freetown, Sierra Leone; a Master of Arts in Public Affairs and Policy from Rockefeller College, University at Albany, SUNY (with a focus on economic development); and a PhD in Political Economy at the University of Hull, United Kingdom.  He serves as chair of the g7+ group of fragile states; co-chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding; and member of the World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Women's Empowerment.

View photos from Dr. Marah's visit to Rockefeller College

Watch Dr. Marah's interview on Time Warner Cable News program Capital Tonight (recorded Wednesday, April 22, 2015)