8 visions for Africa: African Development Bank presidential hopefuls unveil their aims

The African Development Bank is electing a new president. Current leader Donald Kaberuka is stepping down after a decade at the helm, a time in which the outgoing president has been credited with steering the bank through the chaos of the 2008 crash and driving up infrastructure lending.

Eight candidates are in the running to take charge of a lending institution that is amongst the biggest in Africa and rivals the World Bank in providing funding for electricity, transport and water infrastructure projects.

By the end of the month one of these hopefuls will be appointed as the next president. Each candidate has now submitted a vision statement that sets out the priorities they will be pursuing if elected.

Candidates, nearly all of who are currently serving as African government ministers, told The Guardian the crux of their visions.

Birama Boubacar Sidibe – Mali’s vice-president

I really believe that we are going through a fantastic opportunity now. Africa is changing very fast and I really believe that we are in a situation where we need to be relevant to African problems – with changes ahead – and I believe my aspiration is really to continue to build on the past success and the past progress.

My vision is of an AfDB that is of a new generation of regional development bank, seeking the effective development of the private sector as priority number one, and also as an institution that should be able to respond to the needs of its client, customer and/or shareholder.

This vision – I see five priority areas: I believe we need first to build strong institutions, service delivery institutions and presentation institutions.

My second priority would be [to] make it possible for the private sector to be the main investor in African problems in infrastructure and energy and so on. Also, [I would prioritise] the mobilisation of the resources to be able to finance mega projects, mega deal projects in Africa. That’s another area that I would really want to concentrate on if I were given that role.

The AfDB needs to adapt its operating model to be able to be the institution that structures the deals to attract the private sector to come and face the challenges. We have a fantastic opportunity: Africa is changing, the bank needs to adapt its operating model to Africa, we need a modern bank to do that.

Akinwumi Adesina – Nigeria’s minister of agriculture and rural development

I’m running for president of the AfDB because I have a vision for Africa, an Africa that actually has inclusive growth, an Africa where you have countries that are actually well linked to each other, so it’s regionally integrated. An Africa that is connected to the rest of the world so you have an Africa that is globally competitive. But also an Africa that young people want to stay in, not one that they want to move away from. An Africa that we can be proud to call ours. And that’s my vision for the bank, for what the bank can do.

I have laid out my priorities for doing that. 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.

Why am I ideal for this? I’ve lived in 15 countries, 10 of those were Francophone countries. I’m a development economist; I come with a whole set of skills that cover development finance in rural economic development, public policy, investment and finance. And I have worked and delivered programmes at scale, at impact. I actually come from a rural area; my father was a farmer, I came out of poverty. So I know poverty is not about statistics, it’s something we have to change. It’s not about someone like me being an exception, that should be the normal thing in Africa. And that’s why I’m running for president of the bank, because I think we can bring a lot of hope and prosperity to the continent.

Cristina Duarte – Cape Verde’s minister of finance and planning

My vision for the AfDB starts with my vision for Africa. I have a quite deep conviction that change is possible – yes, we can do it despite [all the challenges]. The AfDB is supposed to help Africa to seize the opportunity, to help Africa to grab these moments in terms of Africa rising, and to ensure Africa’s transformation.

This will require a change of mentality, of our mindset. So we can move away from business as usual to adopt a more leapfrog approach, we can move away from managing poverty, to adopt an approach [that seeks to] retain and create African wealth.

In order to do that, the AfDB will have to undertake some reforms to become a more efficient, effective, productive and responsible organisation. And, in order to do that, the AfDB will have to adopt, for example, a more selective and focused approach, a results-based management approach based on and supported by a strong monitoring and evaluation system. I think it’s time for the AfDB to start measuring impacts – not processes, not lending volumes, not process approval – so that we can build on leadership, ownership and partnership.

Samura Kamara – Sierra Leone’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation

As a former client of the bank, as well as a shareholder of the bank, and as an African, I’ve really seen the bank’s ability to make a lot of difference in people’s lives in Africa. And I do believe the bank can and must be pushed to advance the developmental monies as well as the financial monies. And I would be honoured to have the privilege to lead the bank to carry forward these two difficult challenges.

The bank has done very well in [its] 50 years: it’s been dynamic, it’s been innovative, effective and accountable. I think we need to build on this. We need to consolidate what the bank has done. There are challenges, we have to learn the good lessons and bad lessons that are coming out of this.

“But of course, we have a baseline on which we can build. We have the baseline which is the bank’s senior strategy to 2022. It lays down the imperatives of what are actually our core challenges in Africa. Secondly, we need to advance the bank’s AAA rating because it’s about also mobilising affordable resources, mobilising adequate resources and forming an optimally structured organisation.

Against this background, we also need to put greater efforts into fighting inequality – we need to fight exclusion. We need to put a lot of emphasis on insecurity, that’s very important. As we move forward, we need to ensure that strong partnerships are built because this is central if African development is to continue in this mandate.

Thomas Sakala (Zimbabwe) – AfDB’s former vice-president of country and regional programmes

Whether or not I was a candidate for this position, as an African I have a vision of an Africa that is determined to transform itself into a confident, integrated and prosperous continent, and it’s not original: it has been there for a long time.

When we come to why I am a candidate, I can summarise it in three words: consolidation, innovation and results. And to understand how I’ve arrived at this position you need to start by recognising that the bank is currently in a good space: it is strong, it has been doing reasonably well. And probably I can also say that I’m proud to have been part of the staff and management team that has worked under the leadership of Dr Kaberuka to bring [the bank] to where it is. I know some colleagues here have also worked at the bank so it’s a shared source of pride.

Fundamentally, I believe the bank should continue with the same tenuous strategy objectives of inclusive growth and transition to green economies and it will have to remain focused on the five operational priority areas that have already been identified: infrastructure, regional integration, etc.

Personally, I’m going to pay more attention to infrastructure, regional integration, private sector development in Africa and also pay a lot of attention to gender issues, fragility and food security. And I believe my long years in the bank, involved in various areas, will help me do that quickly.

Jaloul Ayed (Tunisia) – president of the MED Confederation

My vision is to make the bank an engine to transform the unfathomed wealth of Africa for the benefit of all Africans while pursuing the path of sustainable, inclusive and green development. And in doing so, I will basically pursue the strategy that’s been set forth by the bank, particularly with respect to the areas of emphasis, mainly infrastructure, private sector, skills and technology. I will put much greater emphasis personally on the private sector because I believe that it’s really the engine for growth and development, particularly now that Africa is moving out and is relying more on its own resources. And so I believe the time now is for Africa to really capture the moment and push through the momentum that it has created over the last decade or so.

I also happen to believe that there is another area on which I’ll put great focus which is financial systems and financial systems development and reform. I believe that an economy can only be strong if it has a strong financial system, and by financial system I mean not just the banking system but all the areas of financial systems: private equity, capital markets and what have you.

I also believe the focus should be put on some areas that I believe are important, [such as] culture, and I attach great importance to gender, as well as to pushing through the strategy that has been deployed by the bank with respect to the fragile states.

Kordjé Bedoumra – Chad’s minister of finance and budget

I think Africa is at a critical tipping point and that can and will accelerate the current growth, inclusive growth and sustainable growth. The AfDB can play a great role in focusing the resources on areas which can get results on the ground. And when I’m talking about results on the ground, I’m talking about things which can change the situation of our population.

Four of them, quickly: the first one is that I hope that the bank can work with regional integration organisations so that we can soon come into a situation where the [free] movement of goods, services, people and capital is a reality on the continent. You have a market on the continent which can promote the economic transformation and also investment in the continent.

The second thing we know we have to focus on [is] providing jobs for youth and the empowerment of women. These are areas that we have to focus on. Everything we are going to do in terms of promoting private sectors, small and medium-sized enterprises, micro-finance, we should measure [in terms of] how many jobs we create for young people, how we really promote the empowerment of women. We have to ensure we get results in these areas. That’s why I’m calling for an impact on the population.

The third thing is the human being and the last one is security and peace, which is very, very important.

Sufian Ahmed – Ethiopia’s minister of finance and economic development

Africa is in the midst of a golden age, and I want the AfDB to play the fullest possible role in taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities all around us.

As Ethiopia’s finance and economic development minister since 1995, I’ve helped Ethiopia to reap its share of this harvest. Our growth is among the fastest on the continent (more than 10% per annum over the last decade). Inflation is under control. And investors showed their confidence in our prospects when our $1bn Eurobond issue was oversubscribed by 260%.

I would be honoured to use my experience to work for the whole of Africa as the next president of the AfDB and, if elected, I would focus on three core tasks.

First, focus our financing on what we are best at and what will make the biggest difference for Africa – above all, infrastructure, agriculture, and supporting private sector growth and helping fragile states.

Second, bringing world class advisory capacity to the table in support of the countries we work with – supporting fragile and conflict-affected states, building enabling environments, and generating real results from private sector growth.

“Third, invest in high quality management and operations through an approach built on empowerment, delegation, and accountability, with the whole bank focused on effectiveness value for money and minimising costs.

Images via GPfE / APP / OECD / The Commonwealth / IMF / Rwanda Government

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