Africa seeks super banker to manage economic frontier

Tuesday May 26 2015

African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka speaks during a past function. AfDB has given out funds to construct a regional biomedical centre of excellence and to train teachers. PHOTO | FILE

African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka speaks during a past function. With 80 shareholders — 54 African states and 26 non-African countries — set to vote on Thursday, it is difficult to predict who will succeed Rwandan's Kaberuka, bank chief for two consecutive terms since 2005. PHOTO | FILE 

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Tuesday

Eight candidates are vying to become the next head of the strategic African Development Bank as the continent is undergoing an economic transformation.

With 80 shareholders — 54 African states and 26 non-African countries — set to vote on Thursday, it is difficult to predict who will succeed Rwandan Donald Kaberuka, bank chief for two consecutive terms since 2005.

The new super banker will take over an AfDB seeking to diversify beyond its traditional role as a development bank, which lends money for major projects — a total of $6.8 billion for 317 operations in 2013.

Today despite multiple conflicts, health crises such as Ebola, and staggering poverty, Africa is seen as “a new frontier in world economic growth,” Amethis investment fund founder Luc Rigouzzo told AFP.

He noted that the continent’s gross domestic product had doubled since the year 2000 to $2 trillion (1.8 trillion euros). In an OECD-led report released Monday, economists predicted the overall African economy would expand by 4.5 per cent this year.

In this new frontier, shareholders in the Abidjan-based bank might, for the first time pick a woman, Cristina Duarte, Cape Verde’s finance minister, who would also be the first Portuguese speaker to run the bank.

Other contenders include Akinwumi Adesina from Nigeria, which rivals South Africa as an investors’ favourite despite fighting a six-year insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists in the country’s north.

However, a win by Adesina, Nigeria’s outgoing agriculture minister, would break an unwritten rule that regional heavyweight countries should not run the AfDB.

PLAY KEY ROLE

The candidates from Francophone African countries are Mali’s Birama Sidibe, an expert in development, Tunisia’s ex-finance chief Jalloul Ayed and Bedoumra Kordje, current finance minister in Chad, who if chosen would become the AfDB’s first president from central Africa.

Ethiopian finance minister Sufian Ahmed, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister Samura Kamara and former AfDB vice president Thomas Sakala of Zimbabwe round out the list.

Foreign investors will likely play the role of kingmaker in choosing the next AfDB chief.

The United States — the AfDB’s second-biggest shareholder after Nigeria — will have a central role in the vote, as will Japan and China.

France wants a bank president who is “more concerned about the interests” of Francophone Africa, says the finance ministry.
But analysts say Western powers need to take a new view of Africa.

(AFP)