Understanding Sovereign Debt in Africa 2024: An Update Sprint

Understanding Sovereign Debt: Options and Opportunities for Africa 2nd Edition Produced with The African Legal Support Facility

Last March 18 to 22, 2024, 17 authors invited by the African Legal Support Facility came together in a hybrid set-up to write an update on the Understanding Sovereign Debt in Africa handbook written with Book Sprints back in 2019. Five years later, 11 of the original authors were joined by four new authors onsite at the lovely venue in Windsor, UK while two authors joined remotely from the US and Australia. Book Sprints facilitators Jana Mendelski and Alysa Khouri, under the guidance of veteran facilitator and Book Sprints CEO Barbara Ruehling, guided this group of sharp minds through five days of collaborative writing and editing. 

In their own words, the authors describe the handbook and its 2nd Edition:

This handbook is intended to empower sovereign debt managers and other officials involved in sovereign debt in Africa by demystifying relevant concepts and terminology and serving as a practical guide to public finance. The handbook was originally published in 2019, before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that brought the world economy to a sudden stop. The impact of the pandemic caused severe financing pressures on Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs), necessitating emergency measures that galvanised a coordinated global response as EMDE governments grappled with rethinking priorities and pivoting to address new challenges. The consequences of the pandemic, other exogenous shocks and developments in the financial architecture warranted the update of this valuable resource. (Foreword, Understanding Sovereign Debt)

The Sprint Update

For this book update, the initial goal of the team was to add crucial new information and insights from the last five years to the original text. This was so that the book would remain an excellent source material of topic overviews and practical guides for debt managers and government officials involved in public debt and financial management in Africa and across the world. As the Book Sprint went on, the authors realized that there was more refinement, restructuring, and rewriting that would be beneficial to the book. Hence, the book underwent an extensive editing process that polished the chapters and wording to further enhance the message of the overall text. 

A Group with Well-Established Trust

With a big group of returning authors, the majority of the Sprint was smooth-sailing as recounted by our facilitator team. These authors were familiar with each other and had built trust in both each other and the Sprint process, easing the way for collaboration. This well-established and comfortable dynamic was also evidenced by interactions outside of the writing process – some of our authors even did a little chocolate exchange of chocolates from their respective parts of the world! This is just one example of how useful the Sprint process can be for establishing long-term dynamics within a team, even after half a decade since working together in this setting. 

Book Sprints participants discuss our classic post-its on the wall.

The Hybrid Set-Up

The hybrid set-up was a unique first for this team of authors. It was a bit of a challenge to manage multiple timezones across the different locations of all the authors, but both facilitators and authors collaboratively worked to find solutions to make the most of the set-up. 

Our team of authors onsite pose for a group photo to celebrate a successful Sprint!

What’s Next

The authors are looking forward to launching an online version of this book in the upcoming Spring Meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund on April 16, 2024. After the online launch, the plan is to publish hardcopy versions as well as translate the book into multiple languages such as French and Portuguese. Stay tuned for more updates of where this book will go! 


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