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Ben Leo

Senior Fellow, Director of Rethinking US Development Policy

Africa, debt relief, international financial institutions, private investment, aid selectivity


Syracuse University – Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs,
University of Oregon


Ben Leo is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and the director of the Rethinking US Development Policy initiative. This initiative seeks to broaden the US government’s approach to development, including the full range of investment, trade, and technology policies, while also strengthening existing foreign assistance tools.

Leo’s research primarily focuses on the rapidly changing development finance environment, with particular emphasis on private capital flows, infrastructure, and debt dynamics. In addition, he is testing a range of new technological methods for collecting high-frequency information about citizens’ development priorities.

His work has been cited in leading international and regional media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, Forbes, USA Today, Mail and Guardian, CNBC Africa, This Day, and Daily Nation.

Leo rejoined CGD after serving as Global Policy Director at the ONE Campaign. In 2011, he worked for the African Union as a facilitator and technical expert in the secession negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan. Leo has worked at the White House as the director for African affairs, advising the president and national security advisor on central, eastern, and southern African nations and regional economic issues. Additionally, he helped design and implement several development initiatives at the US Treasury, including the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and US-Africa Financial Sector Initiative. From 2008 to 2010, Leo led business development efforts in Africa and the Middle East for Cisco Systems.

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