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Race for the AfDB presidency By Temitope Oshikoya



THE election to replace Dr. Donald Kaberuka from
Rwanda as the President of the African Development
Bank (AfDB) will take place in Abidjan during its yearly
meetings next month. Eight candidates are vying for the
prestigious position of Africa’s premier multi-lateral
development bank, which turned 50 in 2014.
Based on depth of professional qualifications and breadth
of experiences, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister
of Agriculture, is one of the front-runners. He has
international development and in-country experience
spread across 14 other Anglophone and Francophone
countries in West, East and Southern Africa.
Dr. Kamara of Sierra Leone, an economist, should also be
a strong contender having served as Governor of Central
Bank, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone in addition to
having worked at the IMF and the Commonwealth. Mr.
Sufian Ahmed has a long-standing public sector
experience; he has been Ethiopia’s Minister for Finance
and Economic Development for two decades at a time
when his country became one of the darlings of the
international donor community.
Mrs. Cristina Duarte has private sector experience at
Citibank and serves as Minister for Finance and Planning
for Cape Verde. The Tunisian candidate, Mr. Jaloul Ayul
is also a Minister of Finance with private sector
experience as former Citi banker and Managing Director
of a commercial bank in Tunisia. There are three former
AfDB’s staff members.
Mr. Kodje Bedoumra, an engineer, brings with him
experience of managing infrastructure projects at the
AfDB, which is now the institution’s largest portfolio, and
as its former Vice President. He has also served as the
Secretary to the Government within Chad’s Presidency, as
well as Minister for Economic Planning, and Minister for
Mr. Birama Sidibe, a Malian is now Vice President for
Operations at Islamic Development Bank (IsDB). Mr.
Thomas Sakala from Zimbabwe is a veteran and former
AfDB’s Vice President for Country and Regional
There are three key issues that the AfDB needs to
address going 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 poor and low-income 35 countries – two-
thirds of 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?
In addressing these fundamental issues, the vision
statement of Ethiopia’s Suffian Ahmed stands shoulder
and head above others, as recently posted on the AfDB’s
website. His statement is on 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 value for money and
minimizing costs.”
His statement then 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 technical experts is quite different from writing
a vision statement as 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.
Being the largest shareholder and with a positive image
from its successful elections, Nigeria could also note that
it is also its own turn, especially with a South African now
head of the African Union, which breaks a long-standing
unwritten rule that the SANE countries – South Africa,
Algeria, Nigeria, and Egypt with a combined GDP of over
half of Africa’s – should not be the head of continental
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% of total vote), West Africa (3.7%) ex-
Nigeria, and Francophone blocs (11% of total votes) who
may fully support Mali or Chad, will drop out if North
Africa with about 19% of total vote support for Tunisia.
During these earlier rounds, Nigeria’s Adesina will scale
through and possibly to the final rounds given the
country’s 9.3% total shareholding (16% of Africa’s 60%
vote). Non-African western countries generally prefer
candidates from relatively smaller or low-income African
countries with heavy reliance on official development
France may initially team up with Mali or Chad; Arab/Gulf
countries with either Tunisia or Mali given the connection
with IsDB; and China with Nigeria. Zimbabwe’s candidate
may be handicapped by perception of his country’s image
with the western countries, which may support Cape
Verde, Sierra Leone or Ethiopia.
However, if the western countries with about 36% of 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.
Dr. Kaberuka of Rwanda, now with less than 0.2% vote,
benefitted from this strategy in 2005. Ethiopia, Sierra
Leone, or Cape Verde may likely benefit from this
networking effect this year.
In this regard, Cristina Duarte is probably one to watch as
the undeclared and anointed candidate of the non-African
western countries partly for being the only female and a
Luso-phone candidate, with both private and public sector
experiences from a country with low voting shares
(0.09%). The 2015 election for AfDB’s presidency is
indeed getting very interesting and the best counsel
during the campaign process: Trust, but verify. •Dr.
Oshikoya, a former AfDB Director, is CEO of Nextnomics

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