Akinwumi Adesina: A deserving second term for Africa’s bold reformer
The first five-year term of the president African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina, the first Nigerian to occupy such position, is expected to end this month, and as the pan African Bank is set to re-elect the distinguished development economist in May, there is, however, disquiet in certain quarters led by some non-African shareholders who are opposed to the re-election bid, despite his internationally acknowledged outstanding performance in the last five years.
Who’s afraid of Akinwumi Adesina?
At the heart of this unnecessary distraction is Steven Dowd, an American businessman who currently serves as the United States Director of the African Development Bank. Whose interest is Steven Dowd serving? The answer may not be far-fetched.
The answer may be found in close proximity to Daniel Runde, a very active Republican, close friend to World Bank President, David Malpass and also close with Donald Trump. Both staunch supporters of “America first” are very critical of China and the AfDB relationship.
Despite his unprecedented track record, for almost a year Akinwumi Adesina has been the target of attacks. Specifically, on 10 June 2019, a column published on the American political information site The Hill already questioned the transparency of the institution and the patronage of its president. He is even accused of organizing his annual meeting a few days later in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
Akinwumi Adesina on his part has never hidden his annoyance at American comments on China. “Do not dwell too much on the presence of China. Instead, from a business point of view, be much more concerned about America’s absence from Africa.’ he repeatedly told American interlocutors, including Steven Dowd. Let us also remember the disturbing words of Malpass, upon his arrival at the World Bank: “How is Red China doing?”
“There is an ideological conflict, and multilateral institutions have become a battleground, but the Bank has no problems with the United States,” said an assistant to the President of the AfDB. He claims that “it was no secret that Steven Dowd was looking for a candidate to face Adesina”
Adesina’s bold reforms in the last five years
Since his assumption of office, Adesina has embarked on reforms, under his watch, the Bank has been substantially repositioned globally, and he has driven highly impactful programs that are accelerating the development of the continent.
The Bank has maintained its AAA rating by all the four major global rating agencies, four years in a row, a reflection of the Bank’s sound financial and risk management, excellent liquidity and strong shareholder support.
The Bank’s income has seen a significant increase, with loan income of the Bank surging from $563 million in 2015, when he took over, to $803 million in 2017, an increase of 42.6%. The net operating income increased from $492 million in 2015 to $781 million by the end of 2017. The highest allocation from net income to reserves ever in the history of the Bank was reached in 2017, for an amount of $190.35 million.
In 2018, the Bank recorded an unprecedented first, when it was ranked Number 1 by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), a position jointly shared with the World Bank. “Publish What You Fund” ranked the Bank in 2018, as the 4th most Transparent Institution among 45 global institutions.
Adesina’s reforms, undertaken as President of the Bank, are showing excellent results. The Bank has been effectively decentralized to get closer to its member countries and clients. It has opened 5 regional Development and Business Delivery offices in North Africa (Tunis), Southern Africa (Pretoria), Central Africa (Yaounde), East Africa (Nairobi), and West Africa (Abidjan); with five Director Generals appointed to run these offices.
An increasingly larger share of the Bank’s operations is run from these regional offices. The share of the Bank’s operations staff based outside of the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan rose from 29% in 2011 to 59% by 2018. Similarly, the share of Bank operations managed from the regional and country offices rose from 30% in 2011 to 76% by 2018.
The Bank was ranked 4th among the top 100 African employers that people want to work for in 2018; a huge jump from the Bank’s ranking of 82nd position in 2015. It has also efficiently managed and has the lowest administrative cost per adjusted common equity among all the multilateral development banks, globally, at just 2%. While the cost to income ratio of the Bank is 41%, the comparable figure for the World Bank is 113%, meaning the African Development Bank is 3 times more efficient on its administrative costs compared to the World Bank.
The Bank has continued to strengthen its human capacity. In 2018 alone, the Bank recruited 680 staff to deepen its human capacity, the highest ever recruitment in the history of the Bank. The Bank’s reputation and standing among global financial institutions has never been stronger. The Bank is now seen as a global financial institution that provides huge leverage for Africa. President Adesina is widely recognized globally and this has helped to lift the image and reputation of the institution while opening up unprecedented global partnership platforms for the Bank.
Today, the Bank is at the forefront of helping Africa achieve accelerated development. The Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa have been acclaimed globally as the key for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. Independent analysis by the UNDP shows that achieving the High 5s will help Africa to achieve 90% of the SDG targets and 90% of the Agenda 2063 goals.
The African Development Bank launched on March 26, 2020, a $3 billion “Fight COVID-19 social bond on the international capital market. It was so successful, raising $3 billion in just a few hours at the interest rate of 0.75%. It is the largest US dollar-denominated social bond in the history of the world and the largest by the Bank since its establishment in 1964. The bond is now listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Adesina went further and led the design and development of the Bank’s COVID19 rapid response financial package. Against onslaughts and roadblocks by non-regional members of the Board of Directors, he was tenacious, patient and bold in his defence of the need to protect and support Africa, to the maximum possible. The Board of Directors finally agreed and approved the $10 Billion Covid19 response facility of the Bank, which was announced on April 8. This is a bold and unparalleled support for Africa. This is the man that is called the “Africa’s Optimist in Chief”, who ceaselessly fights for Africa, speaks for Africa everywhere globally, while accelerating the development of the continent.
Second term bid receives backing
Adesina at the bank’s annual meeting in Equatorial Guinea announced his intention to contest for a second term in office.
” I will run again to continue the work we started,” he said at the end of the bank’s 54th annual meetings in Equatorial Guinea adding, “I am driven by Africa so as president of the bank, I can tell you this is no chore for me; it is a labour of love and I feel truly confident when I see the trust the governors have placed in us.”
His candidacy has been endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to the ECOWAS, “In recognition of the sterling performance of Dr Akinwumi Adesina during his first term of office as President of the African Development Bank, the Authority endorses his candidacy for a second term as the President of the bank,” ECOWAS said in a communique issued after the meeting.
The ECOWAS summit included a progress report on the region’s economic performance. It noted the role of the African Development Bank in the continent’s transformation and called for greater cooperation in order to fund projects in West Africa.
While the decision by ECOWAS to back Adesina’s second tenure was announced at the end of the 56th ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held recently in Abuja, the Executive Council of African Union proclaimed its support during the 36th Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council, held during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 6-7 February 2020. The African Union Executive Council comprises 55 ministers of foreign affairs representing the member states of the African Union.
Attempt to discredit Adesina amid second term plans
One is however not surprised by the number of unfounded allegations aimed at discrediting the candidacy of Adesina for a second term.
Hiding the umbrella of a whistleblower group in the African Development, they alleged one of the allegations levelled against Adesina is that he has attempted to Nigerianise the bank by giving preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians in appointments and recruitment.
The petition also questioned the awards received by Adesina in 2017 and 2019 of $250 000 and $500 000 from groups in the US and South Korea.
“In 2017 and 2019, Mr. Adesina received two major awards: the World Food Prize (USD 250,000) and the Sunhak Peace Prize (USD 500,000). Other less significant prizes were also awarded. It is not clear if he received these awards as the President of the AfDB or as a private citizen. Dozens of people, Bank staff, executive Directors, former Head of State, entertainers or family members attended the award ceremonies at the Bank’s costs (one in Des Moines, Iowa, the other in Seoul, Korea). If these awards were private, why did the Bank support associated costs? If they were awarded to the President of the Group of the Bank were the awards returned to the Bank?” the petitioners alleged.
Reacting to barrage of allegations, Adesina vowed never to be distracted noting that the Bank has a high reputation for good governance.
“The ethics committee of the board of directors is following its internal review systems and should be allowed to complete its review and work without interference from anyone or the media. I am 100percent confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations,” he said.