In a few months’ time, the African Development Bank (“AfDB”) Board of Governors will vote to decide the successor to President Donald Kaberuka whose presidency comes to an end on August 31, 2015. Having first gained international prominence for undertaking sweeping economic reforms as finance minister in a post-genocide Rwanda, Kaberuka has had a highly successful ten years of service as AfDB president. Under his leadership, the AfDB made major improvements in delivery of critically needed infrastructure and technical advice, both of which contributed substantially to the sustained economic growth that Africa has seen during that time.
Today, the AfDB is increasing its impact by using new models of financing projects through investments in infrastructure funds and partial risk guarantees. Both help to attract private capital, which is absolutely critical to fill the infrastructure gap in Africa. It is a model that both Power Africa and Trade Africa have adopted. Indeed, when the Obama Administration was in the early stages of conceptualizing these initiatives, it reached out to Kaberuka for his ideas and support. Kaberuka quickly embraced the initiatives and mobilized a senior team of experts to work with the U.S. government, creating an effective partnership that lasts today.
Set out below are the eight individuals who are looking to follow in Kaberuka’s sizeable footsteps. The ideal next AfDB president will be a global visionary, an inspirational leader, and an outstanding manager of a large, multinational bureaucracy of some 1,500 employees involved in billions of dollars in projects across the continent. The next AfDB president is taking the helm at an especially critical time in the Bank’s history as s/he will be spearheading ongoing implementation of the AfDB’s Strategy for 2013-2022. With a special emphasis on fragile states, agriculture and food security, and gender, the Strategy aims to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth through infrastructure development; regional economic integration; private sector development; governance and accountability; and skills and technology. Regional economic integration through the regional economic communities was an objective of particular interest to Kaberuka who recognized the need to change the fact that Africa continues to trade more outside Africa than within Africa.
- Akinwumi Adesina (Nigeria). Described as “a man on a mission to help Africa feed itself,” Adesina is one of the leading proponents of transforming Africa’s agriculture sector. In his current role as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, he has introduced a variety of innovations to improve access to financing and inputs as well as eradicate corruption and other market inefficiencies. He also is one of 17 global leaders appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group. In addition, he has served as the Vice-President for Policy and Partnerships at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and was the 2013 recipient of Forbes’ prestigious African of the Year award.
- Sufian Ahmed (Ethiopia). Over the course of his two decades of service as Finance Minister of Ethiopia, Ahmed has overseen the transformation of the Ethiopian economy into one of the continent’s fastest growing. Since 2006, the Ethiopian economy has averaged double digit annual growth and seen particularly impressive growth in its power and infrastructure sectors. Ahmed’s most recent accomplishment is overseeing Ethiopia’s debut issuance of a Eurobond. The oversubscribed bond raised $1 billion that will be used to expand the country’s power, sugar factories and manufacturing sectors. He also is leading the government’s negotiations for Ethiopia’s first-ever Power Purchase Agreement for the 1,000 MW Corbetti geothermal power project.
- Jaloul Ayed (Tunisia). Ayed is a well-renowned banker with experience in both the public and private sector. He currently serves as the President of the MED Confederation, “a newly created alliance which aims to promote socioeconomic cooperation in the Mediterranean region.” Prior to this role, he was the Tunisian Finance Minister and “served in the two interim governments that were formed following the Tunisian revolution.” His private sector experience includes 18 years with Citibank, setting up the investment banking arm of the Moroccan BMCE Group and founding Argan Invest, which is Morocco’s largest private equity platform.
- Kordjé Bedoumra (Chad). In his over twenty-five years with the AfDB, Bedoumra held leadership positions (including a tenure as Secretary-General) across a range of “areas including transport, power, water and sanitation, telecommunications and finance.” In his current capacity as Chad’s Minister for Finance and the Budget, Bedoumra is playing a leading role in helping the country to realize its ambition to double its domestic oil production and unlock other mineral resources. Bedoumra also serves as Chad’s representative on the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund. If elected, he would be the first president from the Central Africa region in the bank’s 50-year history.
- Cristina Duarte (Cabo Verde). In the nearly ten years that Duarte has served in her current role as Minister of Finance, the country has graduated to middle-income status and has been commended for “good governance, sound macroeconomic management, trade openness and increased integration into the global economy, as well as the adoption of effective social development policies.” Cabo Verde also has been recognized for its “significant efforts” in the areas of democracy, human rights and inclusive economic growth. In addition, Duarte’s experience with various international organizations — such as the AfDB, the World Bank and the United Nations — is complemented by private sector experience including serving as a Vice-President for Citibank in Angola. If elected, Duarte would be the first woman president in the bank’s 50-year history and also the first from a Lusophone country.
- Samura Kamara (Sierra Leone). Kamara is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone. He has extensive experience in development economics at the sovereign level (as Central Bank Governor and then Finance Minister) as well as the international level (having served on the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank). Kamara has played a senior role in representing Sierra Leone before the African Union as well as the United Nations.
- Thomas Sakala (Zimbabwe). Having first joined the AfDB in 1983, Sakala is another candidate with extensive experience with the institution. His last official position was as Vice-President for Country and Regional Programmes and Policy which involved oversight of the division responsible for “dialogue and programming of AfDB’s operations in the Regional Member Countries; policies and operational resources; procurement and fiduciary services; and partnerships and cooperation.” In his capacity as Vice-President, he also was “a member of the Bank’s Senior Management Team and [contributed] to its overall Strategic Orientation.” He stepped down from this position in October 2014.
- Birama Boubacar Sidibe (Mali). Sidibe is a veteran of development financing institutions. Currently the Vice-President of Operations at the Islamic Development Bank, Sidibe was with the African Development Bank for 23 years where he “held various technical and managerial positions covering operational as well as corporate areas.” Between these two tenures, he served as the Managing Director of Shelter Afrique, “the only pan-African finance institution that exclusively supports the development of the housing and real estate sector in Africa.” (Shelter Afrique is “a partnership of 44 African Governments, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Africa Reinsurance Company.”)
Over the next few months, we will follow with great interest as the eight candidates articulate their vision for the AfDB and make the case for why they should be selected to lead one of the most important institutions in Africa.