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  • EMEP students studying at UCA’s Naryn campus, Kyrgyz Republic.
University of Central Asia
UCA and Afghan Ministry of Finance partner to build capacity

The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance have had a long-term partnership since 2013 to assist in building capacity. The Ministry of Finance plays a critical role in the overall responsibility for developing the country’s fiscal and economic policy framework, including overseeing the implementation of the enormous development budget. Having capable staff in this Ministry is a high priority.

In 2017, UCA’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA) partnered with the Ministry to deliver an Executive Masters in Economic Policy (EMEP) to promising middle-management staff. This initiative was funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, and the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan.

To date over 50 learners have completed this programme, of whom a third were women. Students were selected on a competitive basis by a panel that, in addition to senior Ministry staff, included representatives from UCA and the Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan. The programme was delivered in the Kyrgyz Republic in three intensive sessions, two in Bishkek and one at UCA’s Naryn campus, each lasting a month. It included a distance education component, and a policy paper as a capstone project that was defended before a panel senior ministry of executives.

“My experience at the University of Central Asia has given me the chance to sharpen my skills, and I am still improving my abilities as a result of my time at UCA,” said Ehssanullah Hilali, EMEP graduate of 2019, who is the Director of Cash Planning and Systems at the Treasury of the Ministry of Finance. “I learnt many new things in a very short period of time, and EMEP has provided me with the necessary tools to become more successful in my life.”

Quite a number of EMEP graduates have received promotions following their participation in this programme. Another EMEP graduation for 32 Afghan civil servants will be held in March 2020.

EMEP comprises of eleven modules, and equips learners with sound theoretical knowledge, and tools of economic management, and policymaking required to tackle specific issues facing the country. The curriculum reflects research from 10 working papers that provided an in-depth and up-to-date analysis of issues covered in the courses.

“EMEP used examples from countries in Afghanistan’s vicinity to address the issues related to the policy environment for economic growth in Afghanistan which provoked our thinking toward different approaches,” added Saeda Najafizade, Advisor in the Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance. “Not only did EMEP enhance my theoretical and conceptual understandings, but it was also a gender-focused programme, inclusive of 40% female participants in my cohort – an impressive figure in Afghanistan.”

The Executive Masters programme builds on IPPA’s previous programme, the Certificate in Policy Analysis, which was offered to 26 civil servants in 2014 and 2015 in partnership with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance.

IPPA is part of the University of Central Asia’s Graduate School of Development, and was established in 2011 to strengthen public policy in the region focusing on economic and social issues. It has a Working Paper series, a peer-reviewed monographic journal that has released 55 papers to date, and is a learning source of regionally produced knowledge. IPPA research papers can be downloaded  from UCA’s website:


Following EMEP’s graduation in 2019, female graduates of EMEP were invited by Rula Ghani (centre), the First Lady of Afghanistan, to her office. Accompanying the graduates were Ms. Naheed Sarabi (third from left), Deputy Minister of Finance (Policy), and Mrs. Nurjehan Mawani (fourth from left), the former Aga Khan Development Network Diplomatic Representative to Afghanistan. They discussed the importance of women's inclusivity in economic development of the country, and the role of public-private partnerships in national development.