With barely one year to the expiration of the tenure of Dr Donald Kaberuka as the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the succession battle has begun. The race is still wide open but so far six candidates seem set to throw their hats into the ring when the nomination for the position formally opens this July.
Among the likely candidates are Ato Sufian Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development; Dr Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Mr Jalloul Ayed, Tunisia’s former Minister of Finance; and Mr Kordje Bedoumra, Chad’s Minister of Finance. Also in the race is Mr Birama Boubacar Sidibe, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
As the candidates get set to use the Kigali Summit to kick off their campaigns and lobbying for the election, it is imperative to recapture their pedigrees, particularly their educational background, intellectual capacity and any seeming weakness in the battle ahead.
Ato Sufian Ahmed
Ato Sufian Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development who is Africa’s longest-serving finance minister, is one of the front runners in the race. Indeed, he is widely regarded as the dean of African Finance Ministers. Many believe that he has what it takes, in terms of academic qualification, professional expertise and experience to be the next president of the AfDB. Ato Sufian is a thoroughbred economist. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in Economic Development and Planning from the same university.
He started out as Head of Trade Bureau and Commissioner of Ethiopian Customs Authority between 1993 and 1995. He moved up to the position of Vice President of Oromiya National Regional State from October 2000 to October 2001.
Ato Sufian, who is an unassuming man of intellect, has been at the helm of Ethiopia’s financial policy-making and growth-generating machinery for nearly 20 years. He has pulled the stops to achieve double-digit growth rate in his country and helped two prime ministers to mobilize Ethiopian human and material resources for rapid economic development. Many consider him as the most disciplined in the field.
He has the right mix of moral, academic and practical background to effectively carry out duties of the AfDB president if given the mandate. His record as Ethiopia’s most effective Finance Minister is a boost to his candidacy. As Africa’s longest serving Finance Minister, he is conversant with the various development issues that have challenged Africa in the last 20 years. By his nature, he would be firm, innovative and transparent in the position.
Ato Sufian would not require any coaching to function effectively.
His major source of strength may also be a weakness as some analysts believe he does not socialise enough.
Dr Samura Kamara
Another top contender for the AfDB plum job is Dr Samura Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. A team player and former Sierra Leonean Minister of Finance, he is well respected internationally for his high professional competence, integrity, courage and innovative approach in addressing the economic challenges of his country when he was Finance Minister.
He equally has a rich professional experience. Dr Kamara served for many years as financial secretary in Sierra Leone. He left the post to work as an Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, D.C. He later served as the governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2009, from where he was appointed by President Ernest Bai Koroma as Finance Minister. In December 2012, he became the minister of foreign affairs where he is vigorously pursuing economic diplomacy.
When he was Minister of Finance, Dr Kamara was a key figure in the transformation of the Sierra Leonean economy. He was one of the prime movers of President Koroma administration’s development strategy —‘Agenda for Change’ which was the pivot of Sierra Leone’s economic recovery and reconstruction programme as well as the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, which outlined government’s strategic priorities for the medium term — 2013-2017.
His rich technocratic background, reinforced by his experience as former Central Bank Governor and Finance Minister would likely give him an edge. Adding these to his current diplomatic portfolio paints the picture of a development diplomat which the AfDB needs.
He is diligent, intelligent, versatile and eloquent. His rising profile, reputation, strength of character, educational and professional career experiences are key assets. With a First Class Honours degree in Economics and a PhD in the same discipline from the University of Hull, he is easily the most academically qualified among the contestants.
Dr Kamara is not fluent in the French language. Many, however, agree that he has a fair working knowledge of the language.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who is in the race, is a distinguished agricultural development expert with over 24 years of experience in developing and managing successful agricultural programmes across Africa. He holds a Bachelors degree in Agricultural Economics with First Class Honours from the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, USA.
Until his appointment as the Minister of Agriculture in 2010, he was the Vice President (Policy & Partnerships) for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Dr Adesina has held senior leadership positions in some of the foremost agricultural institutions in the world. He was Principal Economist and Social Science Coordinator at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (1995-1998), Principal Economist and Coordinator of the West Africa Rice Economics Task Force at the West Africa Rice Development Association (1990-1995), and Assistant Principal Economist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. He was also Associate Director (Food Security) at the Rockefeller Foundation where he worked for a decade (1998-2008) in senior leadership positions, including as Regional Office Director and Representative for Southern Africa.
Since Africa remains largely agrarian, Dr Adesina’s expertise in this vital sector should put him in good stead.
Moreso, his vast experience as an expert who has held senior leadership positions in some of the foremost development institutions in the world is a big plus for him. His being a key member of Nigeria’s economic management team may have equipped him with the requisite macroeconomic management credentials. Besides, Dr Adesina, who will receive unflinching support from the Nigerian government, has the capacity to hit the ground running from day one.
Being a Nigerian should ordinarily be strength for Dr Adesina since Nigeria is the largest shareholder of the AfDB responsible for over 8.6 percent of the Bank’s paid-up capital. Unfortunately this has been a source of challenge for past Nigerian candidates as the international community usually gang up against any candidate from the country due to the so-called Nigerian independent character. Moreso, there appears to be a concerted effort to whittle down Nigeria’s influence in the Bank. Several analysts have argued that the fate of many past Nigerian candidates reflect the face of the persisting neo-colonialism in Africa.
Mr Jalloul Ayed
Mr Jalloul Ayed, Tunisia’s candidate for the AfDB presidency is an economist and the country’s former Minister of Finance, even if briefly. He is qualified for the job both in terms of academic qualification and professional experience. He earned a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Maryland in 1979.
Mr Ayed joined Citibank in 1980 where he spent 18 years. While with the US bank, he held various country management positions in the emerging countries of North Africa and the Middle East, where he formulated and implemented business strategies in the countries under his supervision. Overtime, Mr Ayed made significant contributions to developing Citibank franchises in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In 1998 Mr Ayed joined the Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE) as Head of the Investment Banking Division. He became the founder of BMCE Capital, the investment banking arm of BMCE, a leading investment bank in Morocco and in the region.
He has extensive banking and financial services experience which has been reinforced by his experience as Tunisia’s former Finance Minister.
He would be bringing a wealth of experience garnered in the banking and financial services sectors.
Sub-regional considerations may count against him, given the fact that Mr Omar Kabbaj from Morocco, Tunisia’s North African neighbour had served as AfDB president from 1995 to 2005. Indeed, many believe that the North African presidency is still very fresh to have another one so soon. Besides, Abdelwahab Labidi from Tunisia was the AfDB president between 1970 and 1976. Analysts believe that in the spirit of equity and fair play, Tunisia in particular and North Africa in general should tarry and give people from other sub-regions of Africa the chance to occupy the top post.
Dr Kordjé Bédoumra
Perhaps, one candidate who is regarded by experts as a core ‘AfDB insider’ is Dr Kordjé Bédoumra, Chad’s Minister of Finance. Until 2012 when President Idris Déby asked Bédoumra to return to Chad as Minister, he had spent most of his career at the AfDB, becoming director, Secretary-General and then Vice President.
He pushed for the development of infrastructure and participated in the working group of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Dr Bédoumra is equally sound intellectually and possesses the requisite academic qualification. He obtained a PhD in Telecommunications Engineering from Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, Paris (France) in 1979 and Master’s Degree in Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Automated Systems from the Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse (France) in 1977.
As a core ‘AfDB insider’ who spent most of his career at the Bank, becoming director, Secretary-General and Vice President, Dr Bédoumra understands the strengths and weaknesses of the pan-African bank. This factor could help him convince both the African members and non-African stakeholders to support his candidacy.
His strength as an “AfDB insider” may also work against him as many shareholders who traditionally vote for “fresh blood” may want someone who is completely detached from the pan-African Bank. Moreso, the fact that he is a francophone may count against him; given the current mood that someone from another linguistic bloc should be given a chance. The AfDB, in the 30 odd years, has been run by francophone African nationals. Babacar N’diaye (Senegalese) served between 1985 and 1995, while Omar Kabbaj (Morocco) held same between 1995 and 2005. Donald Kaberuka from Rwanda has been on the driver’s seat since 2005.
Mr Birama Boubacar Sidibe
Mr Birama Boubacar Sidibe, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) who is also jostling for the AfDB presidency, is another candidate who is acquainted with the workings of Africa’s premier development finance institution having worked with the Bank for 23 years. While working with the AfDB, Sidibe held various technical and managerial positions covering operational as well as corporate areas of the institution. Prior to joining the Bank, Mr Sidibe was Managing Director of Shelter Afrique, the Regional Housing Finance Institution, in Nairobi, Kenya. He became the Vice President (Operations) of IDB in January 2009. As Vice President (Operations), he oversees the work of several departments dealing with IDB Operations in IDB member-countries and Muslim communities in non-member countries. Mr Sidibe has extensive experience and fairly long exposure to development issues and challenges.
In terms of academic qualification, he holds a bachelors degree in engineering from the Ecole National du Genie Rural des Eaux et Forets, Paris, France and Master of Sciences in Water and Sanitation from the University of Montpellier, France.
Mr Sidibe is a Mali national, who is quite fluent in both English and French, the two main official languages of the Bank. Many say that his Arabic is above average which is an added advantage.
His experience as a former staff of the AfDB who held various technical and managerial positions in the institution could work in his favour. He is very much at home with the mandate of the AfDB. He has devoted most of his working life to core issues of Africa’s development, at Shelter Afrique, the AfDB and the Islamic Development Bank. Mr Sidibe will not need any coaching on the job. Like Sufian Ahmed and Samura Kamara, he has the capacity to hit the ground running from day one.
Mr Sidibe is not an economist and for an institution that has, from inception, been presided over by economists or financial experts, this may count against his candidacy. He is also a francophone candidate just as three past Presidents. Many believe that after 30 years of total domination of the headship of the pan-African Bank by the Francophone, it is time to allow an Anglophone or any-other-phone access to the AfDB presidency.
A couple of other people are also warming up for the race but their candidacies are still at the level of conjecture. One of such is Cristina Duarte, Finance Minister of Cape Verde. If she makes it to the election floor, the Bank would be witnessing its first female candidate.
From all indications, the succession battle is gathering momentum and intense lobbying is going on among those who are desirous of succeeding Kaberuka in 2015. Since 2005, Kaberuka has focused the Bank’s attention on infrastructure, private sector, governance and human capital development. The next President of the Bank is expected to consolidate on these strategic areas, within the context of the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy, cross-cutting areas of inclusive growth and green growth, paying increased attention to generating jobs, local/regional value-addition, environmental challenges and the imperative of gender development.
Kaberuka’s would-be successor should also be able to propel the AfDB to continue to play a leading role in keeping Africa on its current growth trajectory and at the same time tackling widespread poverty in Africa. He would also be expected to ensure strong and continued co-operation between the Bank and other multilateral development organisations, especially the African Union (AU), the Regional Economic Communities, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Bretton Woods institutions.
At the 2014 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, we shall unveil more about these personalities and others who are aspiring to step into Kaberuka’s shoes in 2015.