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The African Development Bank (AfDB) is widely praised these days as one of the premier financial institutions in Africa. The past decade saw it place much greater emphasis on infrastructure financing, a change brought about in part by the instincts of its former president Donald Kaberuka. He enjoyed two highly successful terms at the helm from 2005-2015, handing over the reins last September to Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development (CGD played a role in the AfDB election process, with a high profile panel event for candidates in April).
In this week's podcast, Donald Kaberuka discusses how the AfDB’s success came about. "I think my biggest achievement – not me alone, but all of us at the bank – was to focus the institution," Kaberuka tells me, explaining in the clip below: "It was I think the first time when an organization of this size was able to say, 'There are many things to be done, but this is what I'll do, and do it well.'"
After a decade of strong growth, African economies are slowing down. So what is the role of the African Development Bank in turning that around?
The institution recently turned 50. In that time it's made more than 4,000 grants and loans, totaling more than $71 billion. So what might its next half-century look like?
"We've got to focus on five things," Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina tells me in this week's podcast. He recently returned to CGD to participate in our Spring Meetings event on financing for Africa.
Dr. Adesina's list of priorities includes electricity, food, integration, industrialization, and quality of life. But the trick?
Back in 2006, Todd Moss and Dennis de Tray led a small CGD working group that produced an admirably short and clear report on the future direction of the African Development Bank. It contained six recommendations including a heavy emphasis on infrastructure, and I count it as one of our most important reports; it echoed the recently appointed AfDB President Donald Kaberuka’s own instincts for change, and we like to think it helped him bring his shareholders and senior managers along in strengthening the new directions in which he subsequently took the bank.
Fast forward almost ten years: the AfDB is now widely seen as Africa’s top financial and technical institution serving the continent, Donald Kaberuka is an old friend of CGD, and I’m delighted that he is joining CGD as a distinguished visiting fellow, having recently completed two extraordinarily successful terms as AfDB president.
Kaberuka is currently a Hauser Leader-in-Residence at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. At CGD he will be working on finance and development issues, including serving as a member of our High-Level Panel on Multilateral Banking, which will issue its report in the coming months.
At our 10th anniversary celebration in 2011, we awarded Kaberuka the Edward W. Scott Jr. Equity Award for distinguished service in the interests of the world’s most vulnerable people (perhaps we sensed back then what a friend he would become). Kaberuka joined the CGD board this year.
Hear Kaberuka’s thoughts on his presidency and his future work in a new CGD podcast. And look out for a whole series of events this year to mark CGD’s 15th anniversary!
The African Development Bank has just elected its new President, Akenwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for Nigeria. My guest this week Bobby Pittman watched the multi-stage election process unfold in Abidjan. Pittman, a former Vice President at the AfDB and, before that a senior adviser to President Bush on Africa, now runs Kupanda Capital, an investment firm focused on Africa. Bobby shares his thoughts on Adesina's winning qualities and what his focus should be for the bank.
The African Development Bank dramatically raised the bar for public accountability and transparency in its presidential selection process by live tweeting the voting rounds last week in Abidjan. It’s already old news then that Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian candidate, will be the bank’s next president. Adesina garnered an impressive 60 percent of the regional vote and 58 percent of the total vote of the AfDB’s shareholders.
So what will the institution get with its new leader? You can judge for yourself by watching his performance during the CGD-hosted AfDB candidates forum in April. Although many of his comments were delivered in French, so have your translation software ready if you’re not fluent. Here’s a clip:
As far as vision goes, Adesina offered up an agenda that looks a lot like that of his predecessor, with emphasis on infrastructure, private sector, job creation, and regional integration. This does not represent a radical reset or course correction for the institution. Fortunately, by most accounts none is called for. It’s what the African continent overwhelmingly wants and what the AfDB does well.
There is one question mark though. Beyond the issues mentioned above, Adesina has repeatedly stressed the need for a greater focus on agriculture. That’s no surprise coming from an agriculture minister with a PhD in agricultural economics. And there’s no question that agriculture has been an underperforming sector in most African countries. Yet, beyond financing feeder and trunk roads, the AfDB hasn’t been a particularly big player in agriculture. This might lead to a future clash in priorities. Put differently, how much agriculture minister will stay within him as the AfDB President? Only time will tell.
But Adesina definitely will have the opportunity to make his mark early by shaping the institution through his management and staff selections. With current vacancies and expected departures, and against the backdrop of the bank settling back into its headquarters in Abidjan, the new president will need to make key hires a top priority in the early months.
Ultimately, the bank’s effectiveness and Adesina’s legacy will rest on the institution’s ability to attract, retain, and promote the best and brightest from the region and from around the world. President Kaberuka has helped a great deal by handing off an institution with a strong reputation. But it will be up to the new president to build on that reputation one person at a time. Good luck Mr. Adesina.