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The African Development Bank 50th annual meeting will take place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from May 25-29, 2015. The meeting will see the election of a new president, one of the most important decisions for the institution and the continent.
Eight candidates in the running for the next AfDB presidency have presented their vision for the Bank and Africa (AfDB), pledging to address inequality and unemployment, and to ensure the private sector participation in nations’ and the continent’s development.
The candidates presented their vision statements for the Bank and the continent at a Live event webcasted from Accra by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
Addressing fundamental issues, the vision statement of Sufian Ahmed stands shoulder and head above others, a recent AfDB web post said. Sufian’s vision statement focuses three core tasks: “First, focus on our financing on what we are best at and what will make the biggest difference in Africa… .Second, bringing world class advisory capacity to the table in support of the countries we work with… .Third, invest in high quality management and operations with the whole bank focused on effectiveness, giving value for money, and minimizing costs.”
His statement also addresses four priority areas infrastructure, agriculture, the private sector, and supporting fragile states. In each area, he has only three short paragraphs covering Africa’s challenges, his in-country experience in tackling those challenges, and what he plans to do at the AfDB.
The next vision statement that comes close is that of Dr. Kamara of Sierra Leone, especially in terms of packaging and presentation. Surprisingly, the vision statements of the other six candidates read more like “mid-term research papers,” writing as a technical experts is quite different from writing a vision statement as a presidential candidates for a continental organization.
More importantly, and beyond professional expertise, experience and vision statement, the election of the AfDB’s president is a high-powered political affair reflecting an extension of countries’ foreign policy and commercial interest and sub-regional rotation. While Eastern Africa and North Africa produced the two most recent presidents, Central Africa may claim that it is now its turn.
There are three key issues that the AfDB needs to address on its way forward. First, how many countries will graduate from its soft lending window of African Development Fund (ADF) in five to 10 years’ time? The ADF lends to 35 poor and low-income countries – two-thirds of the 54 African countries, many of which cannot borrow from the AfDB window. Graduating from the ADF window implies that a country has raised its per capita income to become a middle-income country and successfully lifted a majority of its people out of poverty.
Second, what will the AfDB do differently that the World Bank cannot do? The World Bank’s strength, arguably, lies not only with its financial lending (it provides three times what AfDB provides to some African countries), but also with its ability to drive and shape the development agenda and in-country priorities with its policy and knowledge capital.
Third, 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? In essence, 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?
The candidates running for presidency are Akinwumi A.Adesina from Nigeria, Sufian Ahmed of Ethiopia, Jaloul Ayed of Tunisia, Kordjé Bedoumra of Chad, and Cristina Duarte Cabo from Cape Verde. The rest are Samura M. W. Kamara from Sierra Leone, Thomas Z. Sakala from Zimbabwe, and Birama Boubacar Sidibe from Mali.
(Compiled from agencies)