Akinwumi Adesina, who served as Nigeria’s agriculture minister in the outgoing government of Jonathan Goodluck, has been elected as the new president of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Adesina came through six rounds of voting to land the role, defeating seven rivals from across the continent after claiming roughly 60% of the votes cast by the bank’s board of governors. He will take over from the current president, Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, to become the organisation’s eighth leader since its foundation in 1964.
“I want to assure you that, as president of the bank, I will be a responsible president,” Adesina, who has described himself as the son of a farmer who “came out of poverty”, said after his victory in an election held at the AfDB’s headquarters in Abidjan. “I will be focused and I will work with you to build upon the tremendous work of President Kaberuka.”
The bank is one of Africa’s biggest lending institutions, rivalling the World Bank in financing infrastructure projects to improve electricity, transport and water services. In 2013, the bank approved almost $3.16bn (£2bn) in loans and grants to infrastructure projects on the continent, according to its annual report.
A development economist with a PhD from Purdue University in the US, Adesina, 55, arrived at Nigeria’s agriculture ministry in 2011, assuming responsibility for a sector neglected for decades as Africa’s top oil producer became increasingly dependent upon petroleum revenues.
Under his stewardship, food production increased by 22 million tons and food imports dropped more than a third, an agricultural revival the government claims created about 3 million jobs.
When Kaberuka finishes his term on 1 September, Adesina will take the helm of a financial institution at a crossroads.
Founded to provide capital for economic development and poverty alleviation in its member states, the bank is financed by African nations shareholder countries outside the continent.
But in recent years there has been a huge jump in lending to Africa from non-traditional partners, particularly China. And since 2011, more than a dozen African countries have issued their first international sovereign bonds.
“The bank has had 10 good years, but the key now is to stay in the game,” said one AfDB executive director. “We have to be relevant and do that by doing the things that other [commercial and development] banks can’t.”
Insiders said member states are divided on whether the AfDB should further concentrate on attracting private financing to infrastructure projects or move into new areas, including helping poorer nations to access international debt markets.
The bank estimates that Africa needs annual infrastructure investment of about $100bn over the next decade.
“Infrastructure financing is key,” said Abdourahmane Cisse, Ivory Coast’s budget minister. “Not only infrastructure at a local level, but infrastructure for regional integration.”
The AfDB’s lending capacity meets only a small fraction of that demand, however, and the bank has compensated by playing on its AAA credit rating to attract private financing for projects.
“I am confident that my successor will be able to take the bank to the next level,” Kaberuka told Reuters in an interview soon after Adesina’s election.
In a vision statement detailing his priorities for the bank before the vote, Adesina said he wanted to see inclusive growth and regional integration, along with an Africa that is globally competitive.
“I have laid out my priorities for doing that,” he wrote. “First, it’s critical to have smarter infrastructure to have increased productivity and competitiveness for Africa. The second is the private sector – it’s the engine of growth … for wealth creation. A big thing for us in Africa is an inclusive model. But also jobs for Africa’s youth, jobs for Africa’s women, reviving Africa’s rural areas for inclusive growth and, finally, to have regional integration for shared prosperity.”
(Compiled from agencies)