Archival Holdings of the IMF, World Bank Group, and Chinese State Council

William Winter

Professor Kamola

Politics of Africa

2 May 2018

Archival Write-up

 Archival Holdings of the International Monetary Fund

The Archival Holdings of the International Monetary Fund date back to the financial groups founding in 1946. The first suggestion of the IMF archives is contained in the Articles of Agreement from 1945, Article IX on Status, Immunities and Privileges, which functions as the preamble of the institution. The Archival Holdings contain a considerable range of information for public view. The materials included in the archive fall into two categories (Institutional archives and Executive Board documents, respectively). First, the Institutional archives, which become available after twenty years, have responsibility over Area/Regions Departmental Records. This physical Collection is organized into six distinct series, which include Administration, Country, Economic Subject Files, International Organizations, IMF Organization, and Publications. In many respects, this series reflects the core function of the Fund as it contains documents on the role and responsibilities of departments, offices and bureaus; financial operations and policies; as well as IMF programs.

This archive may be helpful for professional researchers, students, and citizens who are interested in researching IMF policy directed at a specific country in Africa (i.e. IMF policy for Sub-Saharan Africa/African Department). In addition, individuals engaged with research projects that seek to examine inter-departmental debates over monetary policy in Africa may want to consult this archive. The amount of primary/secondary source material located at the archive can deepen any research project that identifies economic IMF Organization, Country, and Economic subject files as relevant to their research priorities. For undergraduate students researching topics relating to African politics and economic policy, working papers and memoranda from the IMF can be useful primary/secondary sources.

This is a physical collection and, therefore, must be consulted on site, or digitized upon request. Requests for onsite archival visits should be sent to the Archives mailbox at Upon making your request, expect a response within five business days. When seeking to schedule an onsite visit, visitors should also schedule an appointment to use the reading room. Reading room hours are by appointment only. In addition, guests of the archive must present a current government-issued photo ID for entrance. The IMF archive is located at International Monetary Fund, 700 19th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20431.

Secondly, the Executive Board documents are a digital collection available for immediate remote access. A link to the Executive Board Collection is here. The Collection and its documents are available to the public under three- and five-year rules. This Collection includes agendas and minutes of Board meetings; reports on missions to member countries; policy papers; staff reports; and discussions of economic, fiscal, and monetary policy issues. Every month, an additional 600 Board documents become available to the public. The disclosure of these documents are consistent with the IMF Transparency Policy. In addition to the two Collections, the IMF eLibrary also supports some of this material through its online platform here. For those engaged in the study of Africa, this online archive hosts a great deal of information that is somewhat similar to the Institutional archive but preserved online for immediate remote access. Interesting research projects could perform an analysis of internal IMF policy memos to see how IMF staffers were describing local African political leader’s decades ago.

World Bank Group Archives Holdings

 The Web Archives of the World Bank was initiated in March 2007 as part of an effort to “preserve the historical and research value of World Bank websites.”  The mission of the Archives is to protect the institutional memory of the World Bank Group, but also offer public access to records of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). The Web Archives provide users with the ability to view documents and reports, oral histories, as well as photographs and other archival material. The inclusion of images, personal accounts, diaries, and institutional documents can be particularly helpful for those engaged in the study of Africa. To access the archive holdings website of the World Bank Group, go here. This link will guide the user to a search options bar with a tab on the left column displaying the records and papers of departments, staffs, and former principles at the World Bank Group. If a user has a specific topic they want to research, identifying cross references in the left column will narrow search results.

Source: World Bank Group Archival Holdings (main search page). Note the records section on the left side of the search page.

The image above was taken from the main search page of the archival holdings at the World Bank Group. It may be helpful for users who are unsure about performing research inside the online archive. In the search engine directly below “Find Results With,” typing key terms or concepts may generate a broad list of possible sources. If researchers already have an idea of what they are looking for or would like to narrow their search results, selecting an additional field to explore in the right-hand bar which says “Any Field” may help. In addition, the tab directly below the main search bar which says “Add new criteria” can help users search for multiple terms at once. By using this instrument, users can more easily find connections between concepts and documentary source material possibly preserved within the archive. For example, searching for items related to African infrastructure and development can perhaps be more easily located if those two keywords were included in separate search bars.

When researching material on Africa, it may be helpful to apply set time periods to one’s search for more accurate results. This can be done in the search engine on the main page of the archival holdings. At the bottom of the Web Archives, users can browse by region. This browsing feature can be located here. Upon entering the browsing section, the user can choose a specific region to browse. This instrument can be particularly useful if researchers are browsing within a specific country and want to cross reference their search items with the official records displayed on the left column of the main search page.

This archive can be useful for a variety of research projects relating to African politics. For undergraduate students seeking to include the personal papers or diaries of World Bank officials into their research projects, the online archives possess a diverse collection of materials. Moreover, a paper that examines how the Agricultural and Rural Development office as well as the Urban Development office differed in their discussion of structural adjustment policies in Africa in the 1980s could be interesting.

Finally, while this is an online archive, users can contact the World Bank Group Archives directly. The contact number for the archives is (202) 473-2000. The World Bank Group Archives can be emailed here. The physical address of the Archives is 1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433.

The State Council of The Peoples Republic of China Archive

 Archival Material: China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (2013)

I thought it was important to delve deeper into Chinese archives and the possible source material they possess relating to Sino-Africa trade and investment. In this vein, I found an online archive within the Information Office of the State Council. The Information Office of the State Council is an administrative office under the State Council. The State Council reports directly to the Chinese premier. This office effectively functions as the Chief Administration Officer of the Communist government.

While the archive is certainly censored to prevent the incorporation of documentary material inconsistent with Beijing’s “win-win cooperation” message about the Sino-Africa relationship, it does include useful primary source material. Specifically, the state online archive contains official government white papers, ministry documents, and official government statistics on a wide variety of issues (among them, African trade and investment). It provides useful archival information on Chinese policies, services and contact details of public service agencies as well as a unique platform for global users to engage with the Chinese government. Having said that, the archive is limiting. Put directly, what a researcher sees online is pretty much what that person will receive in terms of access.

In a similar vein, while the archive boasts about how interactive the website is for foreign users, the only contact information that the site provides is a single email address to the Chinese premier. Towards this end, researchers should be critical when incorporating source material from this archive into their academic work. The archive maintains English versions of the documentary material. A link to the online archive is here. To view the official Chinese government white paper, China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (2013), please click here.

Example From the State Council Collection

The government report, which is the archival piece focused on in this summary, breaks down China’s economic engagement with Africa into five parts. The first section of the report, titled Promoting Sustainable Development of Trade, details how China-Africa trade continues to expand. The white paper asserts that as the trade relationship grows, the increased proportion to each country’s total foreign trade will highlight new common interests and, in turn, strengthen the strategic partnership even more. For example, the report highlights that “[i]n 2012, the total volume of China-Africa trade reached US$198.49 billion, a year-on-year growth of 19.3%. Of this, US$85.319 billion consisted of China’s exports to Africa, up 16.7%, and US$113.171 billion was contributed by China’s imports from Africa, up 21.4%.”[1] The second section, Improving the Level of Investment and Financing Cooperation, describes how China’s new form of economic engagement with Africa is different from previous foreign economic relationships. The report begins by stating that “poor economic foundation and insufficient construction funds have always been factors limiting the development of African countries.” However, the report writes that China’s support for increased investment and development in more than 50 African countries is changing how foreign direct investment manifests across the continent.

An interesting feature of this report is the degree to which the Chinese government embraces the term “exploit” as a characterization of the Sino-African economic partnership. In fact, the government report is relatively transparent in how it presents the mutual benefit among the two countries. “Energy and mineral resource exploitation is the major impetus for the economic booms of many African countries.”[2] When describing the mutual benefit occurring between China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation document asserts that “Chinese enterprises have built highways, hospitals and other public infrastructure while extracting copper-cobalt ores.”[3] In this sense, a key question that a reader of the document may have is how the economic relationship between China and Africa is different if exploitation remains at the heart of the arrangement. The third aspect of the report on the strategic partnership between China and Africa deals with strengthening agriculture and food security. In this segment, the document chronicles the largest agricultural project in Rwanda, which is operated by China. This project is a “farmland improvement project supported by investment from the African Development Bank and contracted to Chinese enterprises.” When completed, the agricultural project will possess control over all major rivers, thereby improving the utilization of water resources for farmers in Rwanda.

The fourth section of the white paper focuses on Chinese efforts to support African infrastructure and construction projects. For those interested in African development policy, reviewing this portion of the white paper may provide researchers with an understanding of how Chinese investment in Africa is distinctive in terms of infrastructure funding (compared to western foreign direct investment). A great deal of this section is devoted to describing the virtues of the China-Africa Development Fund. “The China-Africa Development Fund, established as one of the eight pledges China made at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, had by the end of 2012 agreed to invest US$2.385 billion in 61 projects in 30 African countries, and had already invested US$1.806 billion for 53 projects. According to preliminary statistics, the agreed upon investment projects will bring US$10 billion worth of investment to Africa, increase local exports by about US$2 billion annually, and benefit more than 700,000 people.”[4]  This aspect of the report introduces the technical economic benefits of China’s development assistance in Africa. From the perspective of the China report, the developmental dimension is at the heart of the strategic partnership. China is helping build hydropower dams, power grids, and other infrastructure projects through concessional loans as well as state and private investments. Finally, the fifth part of the report discusses the steps being taken to promote the quality of life among African peoples. “In addition to building hospitals, donating drugs and organizing medical training programs, China has also launched an initiative, “Brightness Action,” to treat cataract patients, provided mobile hospitals, built bilaterally-run eye centers, and helped build demonstration and training centers for diagnosis and treatment technologies.”


In the last analysis, the China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (2013) white paper is an interesting state viewpoint on China’s expanding economic role in Africa. An interesting piece of the report is the emphasis on foreign direct investment in critical sectors of the economy. This includes infrastructure, a variety of other construction projects, education, and health care. The value of this source and, more generally, the archival holdings of the State Council, is the attraction it poses for researchers who wish to integrate Chinese primary material (although, translated) into their work on the Sino-Africa economic partnership.

Note: This figure was taken from the China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (2013) white paper available on the State Council archival website.


Archives of the International Monetary Fund. International Monetary Fund. Washington, D.C.

“China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation (2013).” Information Office of the State

Council. The People’s Republic of China. August 2013. Beijing.

World Bank Group Archives Holdings. The World Bank Group. Washington, D.C.

[1] Promoting Sustainable Development of Trade. State Council Archival Collection.

[2] Improving the Level of Investment and Financing Cooperation. State Council Archival Collection.

[3] Supporting African Infrastructure Construction. State Council Archival Collection.


[4] Supporting African Infrastructure Construction. State Council Archival Collection.


Posted: May 2nd, 2018
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