Eight candidates are jostling to replace Dr. Donald Kaberuka as President of the African Development Bank this month. Olubayo Abiodun looks at the chances of the contenders.
BY the time the stakeholders in the African Development Bank (AfDB) gather again this month for its yearly meeting, high-wired politicking will be the colour of the event as interest groups engage in campaigns for the election of the new President of the bank to replace Dr Donald Kabureka of Rwanda who has served two five-year terms. The election is a high-powered political affair driven largely by the candidates’ countries’ foreign policy and commercial interest and sub-regional rotation.
The Board of Governors will be electing Dr. Kaberuka’s successor on May 28, during the Bank’s Annual Meeting in Abidjan to serve a five-year term, renewable once.
Eight candidates are in the race: Ato Sufian Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development; Dr Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Jalloul Ayed, President, MED Confederation and Tunisia’s former Minister of Finance; and Kordje Bedoumra, Chad’s Minister of Finance and Budget; Thomas Z. Sakala who retired in 2014 from the bank as Vice-President, Country and Regional Programmes; Malian Birama Boubacar Sidibe, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Cristina Duarte, Cape Verde’s Minister of Finance and Planning. She is first female candidate for the presidency.
They have submitted their vision statements for the Bank. But the regional influence and political blocs may play significant role in the swing of the votes. The contest is going to be mainly between the Anglophone and Francophone blocs. The latter has held the presidency for the last 30 years.
By delineation, East and North Africa have produced the two most recent presidents. However, West Africa and Central Africa may insist that their turn to take up the leadership of the AfDB is nigh.
The AfDB’s president is elected with a double, but simple majority of both African votes and total votes. In the earlier rounds of voting usually based on country and sub-regional voting shares and linguistic affiliations, the candidates with the least vote, possibly from Eastern and Southern Africa (17 per cent of total vote), West Africa (3.7 per cent) ex-Nigeria, and Francophone blocs (11 per cent of total votes) who may fully support Mali or Chad, will drop out if North Africa with about 19 per cent of total vote support for Tunisia.
Western countries generally prefer candidates from relatively smaller or low-income African countries with heavy reliance on official development assistance.
The speculation is that France may align with Mali or Chad; while the Arab/Gulf countries may team up with either Tunisia or Mali, given the connection with IsDB; while China may canvass for Nigeria. The candidate from Zimbabwe may suffer deficit on account of the country’s low perception from the Western world. Rather than commit their votes to Zimbabwe, the Western countries may choose to align with Cape Verde, Sierra Leone or Ethiopia.
However, pundits argue that if the Western countries, with about 36 per cent of the total votes, feel that their preferred candidate may drop out too quickly because of low votes, they will most likely coalesce around that candidate very early in the voting rounds to propel the candidate to the final round.
The African continent has often been labelled as one with infrastructure deficit. In order to reverse that trend AfDB has been very strategic in the infrastructure roll out on the African continent. The core agenda in this regard was given a strong footing in 2005 when Kaberuka took over the headship of the bank. He focused the Bank’s attention on infrastructure, private sector, governance and human capital development. Having devoted so much strategic initiative in the deployment of infrastructure financing on the continent, the question on the minds of those watching the AfDB space in the run up to the election of a new president is what will be the focus of the next President of the Bank. Will the new President consolidate on the strategic initiatives of sustaining the infrastructure roll out on the continent within the context of the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy, cross-cutting areas of inclusive growth and green growth, paying increased attention to generating jobs, local/regional value-addition, environmental challenges and the imperative of gender development?
It will not be out of place to see the next president of Africa’s premier multi-lateral development bank continue on the current growth path created during the tenure of Kaberuka. Such continuity will not only bring the desired change to the continent, it would also help mitigate the widespread poverty in Africa. More importantly, the new man at the helms of affairs of the bank would be expected to sustain the strategic partnership between the AfDB and the other multilateral development organisations, especially the African Union (AU), the Regional Economic Communities, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank and the International Finance Corporation-IFC).
Pundits have also narrowed the key areas of focus of the AfDB to three fundamentals. In the first place, a strategic challenge is predicated on the poser, how many countries will graduate from its soft lending window of African Development Fund (ADF) in five to 10 years’ time? In the way it is structurally built, the ADF lends to poor and low-income 35 countries on the continent. That number constitutes two-thirds of 54 African countries, many of which cannot borrow from the AfDB window. Before a country is elevated from the ADF-window, it means that such a country has raised its per capita income to become a middle-income country and has significantly moved a majority of its people above the poverty line.
The second challenge that the incoming president would have to address is, how will the AfDB outperform the World Bank in dealing with issues of common interests on the continent? Of significant note is the World Bank’s strength, which goes beyond its financial lending capacities (since it makes available in excess of three times what AfDB makes available to some African countries). Beyond that, the World Bank also has an added advantage of the ability to drive and shape the development agenda and in-country priorities with its policy and knowledge capital.
And finally, the new president set to take the mantle of leadership from Kabureka would need to explain, why should non-African countries provide additional finance either through the capital markets or donor funding to the AfDB and ADF and not to the World Bank or their own respective bilateral development agencies? The critical question is, what would be the value-added of a marginal increase in funding to the AfDB? On the other hand, why should African countries trust the AfDB if they feel that they need greater voice at the institution?happy wheels