Remembering Herbert M’cleod

Press Release

We are deeply sad to announce the passing of IGC Sierra Leone and Liberia Country Director Herbert M’cleod on 19 May 2022. Herbert played a leading role in developing the International Growth Centre (IGC) programme in Sierra Leone, and later our combined programme in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and served as an IGC advisor on state fragility and natural resource management.

In his home country, Sierra Leone, he was regarded as one of the leading economic experts. His advice and wisdom were hugely valued and trusted – and the esteem transcended party politics. Having served as a senior advisor to the Vice President in the SLPP government led by President Kabbah, he was appointed in 2007 as a senior advisor to the new APC President Koroma.

Herbert’s international career spanned over 50 years of development work across Africa for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and more recently for the IGC. He held UN positions in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. He worked as a UN adviser on mining agreements in Guinea and the Republic of the Congo, and was at the forefront of efforts to protect human rights and secure broad economic benefits from the operations of extractive industries.

From 2005, when he began advising the Government of Sierra Leone, a key focus of his work was on the challenges of the post-conflict transition for economic development. This developed further while Herbert led the IGC Sierra Leone programme, as his insights and pathbreaking work highlighted the continuing, fundamental challenges of fragility – and he called for a cross-cutting national effort to overcome them. His focus on economic development never flagged, as he called on small countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea to push aggressively to link domestic supply chains to international markets through stronger regional collaboration, notably in the Mano Riven Union, and through the new African Continental Free Trade Area. The International Finance Corporation also called on his support in promoting private sector development through the Africa Project Development Facility and the Foreign Investment Advisory Services.

Herbert will be remembered with great fondness for his intellectual and moral rigour, his enthusiasm for economic policy reform, and his kindness to his colleagues. We will all miss him dearly.

We would like to extend our condolences to Herbert’s family, his many friends, and colleagues.

Tribute from IGC Director Paul Collier

I and my wife have both known Herbert for around 30 years: he has been both a colleague and a friend. As I checked back on the stream of emails that he had sent me, it was striking that as the frustrations of his hopes for Africa’s poorest countries mounted, instead of becoming jaded or cynical, he became evermore energised and astute.

His premature death is a serious loss not only for the IGC, but most especially for Sierra Leone. Over long and painful years, he had come to understand the acute stresses trapping his country, how change had to come from within the society, how difficult it was to begin that transition, and how independent academic knowledge from people who could be trusted could sometimes help to catalyse change. From that deep understanding, his role at the IGC was invaluable: he was able to recognise the family resemblance of the challenges facing many of the world’s poorest countries.

His life, and his dedication, can – and needs to – inspire the coming generation of African economists.

Editor’s note: You can read Rachel Glennerster’s tribute to her long-time friend and mentor here.