Bravo to AfDB governors for standing their ground against the US
The US has a history of having its wishes granted, but for once came up short, judging from the outcome of the biggest meeting in Africa this past week, the joint 55th and 46th Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Development Fund (ADF), respectively.
The two-day virtual meeting of the bank group released its final communique, which announced the re-election of Dr Akinwumi Adesina as president. It closed a frivolous episode in the life of Africa’s foremost multilateral development finance institution (DFI).
The US unsuccessfully attempted a coup; using its 6.563% voting power to impugn Adesina’s fitness to hold office. Whistle-blowers accused him of corruption and nepotism.
He was cleared by an internal inquiry. The US rejected the findings, pushing for an external investigation, which also cleared him. Perhaps by recommending that the bank group should “strengthen its internal governance, compliance, control and accountability functions to align with best practices of peer institutions”, the governors are signalling to Adesina that they will be watching him during his second five-year term.
The AfDB is one of the DFIs committed to funding South Africa’s Covid-relief efforts.
By re-electing Adesina they did what more African states and organisations ought to do: not needlessly yield to the US or any foreign power. The governors affirmed the “continued relevance of the High 5 priority areas with an emphasis on selectivity to help bridge the infrastructure finance gap in areas where the Bank Group has comparative advantages such as transport, telecommunications, agriculture, energy and digital economy”. The High 5 priority areas are the legacy of Adesina, since he took over in 2015.
There are nine non-African voting member countries in the bank group’s top 20 shareholders, by equity percentage.
The US is the largest non-African shareholder and second overall – after Nigeria. By insisting on good governance it is carrying out its fiduciary obligations, but that should not compromise AfDB’s progress and not undermine an African leader.
His track record at the AfDB craves no spin-doctoring. On his watch, the Bank Group maintained a triple-A rating with a stable outlook from all four major global rating agencies. His management presented sterling operational and financial performance repeatedly.
Last year, the bank again got an unqualified external audit opinion of its financial statements.
The AfDB grew its authorised capital by 100% to $208 billion.
President Adesina is as qualified, experienced and as competent as they get. This son of a farmer, and a former minister of agriculture and rural development in Nigeria, holds qualifications that include a Bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Ife. He has a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University – the alma mater of astronaut Neil Armstrong. He won an award for the Outstanding PhD Thesis for his research and received the Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1988.
How much more qualified must an African be? Results do not lie, so let me err with President Adesina than let the US bully the AfDB like it bullied the World Health Organization. Bravo to the governors for standing their ground!
* Victor Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.