The Race For African Development Bank’s Presidency Hotter
MUTIZWA: Let’s begin with a look at the records of Donald Kaberuka over the past ten years. We want to understand what he leaves in his out-tray. How was it for you?
Gast: I think it was excellent and if one looks back at the African Development Bank ten years ago, it was in a very different place. A lot of money was being programmed; there were many delays in getting contracting through and many delays on construction. So if you look at the two main priorities that have been set out for the African Development Bank, one is building infrastructure; and the second one is providing innovative finance – Donald Kaberuka has done an excellent job.
Mutizwa: If you were to mark him, what will you give him?
Gast: I will give him an A minus.
Mutizwa: Wow! That’s a strong mark.
Gast: It is a strong mark, but look at what he’s done. In addition to leading the bank, he’s also the leading voice for development on the continent of Africa and he himself comes from a very strong background in finance and economics. Having been the Minister of Finance for Rwanda, pulling that country in a post-conflict environment into an environment where there was growth and the private sector was coming in. He took very similar approaches to the African Development Bank and you see a very strong partnership with the private sector, with international donors and with the governments themselves. Also Godfrey, it not just meant managing projects and disbursing funds, it’s also being the head figure for Africa as the voice for development and that means having the ability to engage not only with African leaders but also international leaders on development issues in Africa. He’s widely respected and for those reasons, I give him an A minus.
Mutizwa: It sounds to me like you are saying this might not be the last of him, we might well see him pop out in an international organisation. Are there any areas where perhaps you felt he could have done better? Or that he left untouched that would need the attention of the incoming president?
Gast: I think the reforms that were started in 2006 on decentralisation, those have worked out really well, ninety percent of the procurement action for example, now take place in the field instead of being centralised at headquarters. He created regional offices and also gave them the authority to carry out their functions. I think that there is one element that perhaps could be enhanced with the incoming administration and that’s on the policy dialogue with the government.
Mutizwa: Are you saying there wasn’t enough policy dialogue with the government?
Gast: No, I think there was and I think that for the most part, a lot of the African countries have adopted very market oriented policies. But for example, just going back to the financial crisis, this is where I think President Kaberuka really showed his leadership on the international stage. Many thought that Africa will be isolated, insulated if you will, and not affected by the crisis and Africa was, but he quickly came up with innovative ways of getting liquidity into the markets. That was good but it was also an opportunity with those big loans, and that might get the countries to use leverage to get policy reforms.
Mutizwa: What about his outray, what does it look like? I remember one of the things that is going to be carried forward after he has gone is the ten year strategy of the bank, that would definitely be how the bank is going to interact within Africa itself but also with the international community. What does he leave for the incoming administration?
Gast: The Africa fifty fund that’s out there. I think progress is being delayed on that. It’s a big idea; it requires a lot of funding and a lot of support from the international organisations as well as the membership of the African Development Bank. I think that’s a big project the next president of the African Development Bank will have to work on.
Mutizwa: Do you see potential in the possibilities that the incoming administration may well want to look at the ten year strategy the bank started and perhaps change a few things?
Gast: I think so. Any incoming administration, political, development bank, generally, the first thing that one does, well two things; one is looking at your organisation structure; and then the second is looking at the strategy and making sure the strategy is something that can be supported. So I do think there will be an internal review of the strategy as Donald Kaberuka did himself, looking at the organisation structure to see if any adjustments need to be made. First thing, the African Development Bank has a very decentralised model, but what we are seeing in the international organisations around the world, USAID, DYFED, the World Bank, IFC are moving towards greater centralisation so it is an interesting time to see what happens at the African Development Bank.
Mutizwa: Absolutely, we are going to be writing this story for a very long time indeed. Moving on from Donald Kaberuka, Let’s talk about the person who should succeed him. Before we talk about the main candidates that have been put forward by the banks, let’s talk about the kind of leader that the AFDB needs at this particular junction. Does it need a banker or does it need a leader? Are we talking about a politician or a technocrat?
Gast: I think you need both. You absolutely need both. You need someone who understands finance because that person is going to be the lead person on the global stage explaining what the bank does. In this term of financial innovation, I think the AFDB has been at the forefront in coming up with innovative ways of working with the private sector, mitigating risks on big projects- you certainly need someone who understands that well. On the other hand, we are talking about political skills, he’s going to be working with a very large governing body, and he’s going to need to influence the governing body on major policies or projects. And then of course, he needs to be on the international stage, where there is the economic forum or other forums, there’s plenty explaining and trying to gather support for African countries and for African development.
Mutizwa: Now you guys have put out a note on the candidates that are incoming and you also set out some ideas on the kind of leader the AFDB needs. You say “the ideal next AFDB president will be a global visionary, an inspirational leader and outstanding manager of a large multinational bureaucracy of somewhat 5000 employees involved in billions of dollars in projects across the continent”. Do you see anything resembling that in the names that have been forwarded by the bank?
Gast: I think so. Absolutely, there are a number of inspirational leaders who are part of the candidates list. We have absolutely seen a number of candidates that have done amazing things in their countries, generally ministries of finance who’ve turned around the economic situations in their countries. I think the list is full of well qualified candidates.
Mutizwa: Ok, so let’s assess them, who would you say are the main contenders?
Gast: I don’t want to prejudice any outcome and can only tell you my own opinion. I think there are some strong candidates I have dealt with. If we start alphabetically, I have worked with Minister Adesina over the past three years and he certainly is very well qualified to be a leader of the AFDB. He’s done amazing things in transforming the agric sector and he brings the right blend of both government experience and private sector experience to his current job and he certainly would bring that to the presidency of the AFDB. I have worked closely with Minister Sufian, he is very well respected, twenty years in the ministry of finance. He has helped lead a phenomenal growth that’s taking place in Ethiopia right now and truly working on some innovative things including a power project. It represents the biggest power project in Ethiopia done on a commercial basis, and so I think that Minister Sufian brings in the right amount of experience.
Mutizwa: We are going to talk about the others shortly. On Adesina, the minister from Nigeria, is there enough of a record for us to be able to judge him? He has started what appears to be a mammoth task in turning around Nigeria’s agricultural sector, but has there been enough time for us to judge and say this is a successful man? On the Ethiopian Finance Minister, one criticism would be that he has been a part of this economy for the past twenty years but it remains largely closed.
Gast: On Minister Adesina, you’ll recall Godfrey that just a year and a half ago, he was named Forbes African of the Year. That suggests the world sees him as a leader who has accomplished quite a bit in his time in government as well as in the private sector. He certainly doesn’t have a twenty year record as a minister but I’m not sure that’s required to demonstrate leadership and visionary skills. He certainly has demonstrated to the international community, and I think to the government of Nigeria. and to the people of Nigeria that he certainly has the skills, the views, the visions and capacity to drive agricultural reform in Nigeria. With regard to your question about Minister Sufian, you are right and the financial market is rather closed in Ethiopia? But note that it is not just his decision on the economic path that the country takes, so I think he’s done extremely well, very adept in navigating the path that has been set by the government and promoting growth along the way.
Mutizwa: The next two, Jaloul Ayed from Tunisia, Kordjé Bedoumra from Chad. What do you say about those two?
Gast: Both have a very good track record. Minister Ayed was minister twice, Minister of Finance in Tunisia, he is now leading the Med Group and he has strong experience as an international banker. He was the vice president of the first Citibank so he certainly has the right skills but not as well-known obviously as Minister Sufian and Adesina.
Mutizwa: Quickly can I talk about the lady, Cristina Duarte from Cabo Verde, she would be the first woman president of AFDB if she gets it, and it would be the first time there would be a candidate from Lusophone Africa. Does that give her a good position?
Gast: I think it does. The board certainly are willing to open up and bring in qualified people from regions and certainly Minister Duarte is extremely qualified to give them a chance to run the bank. She is coming from a Lusophone speaking country but she also speaks English very well and French, so she has all the languages covered in the continent. She also brings a very impressive track record having served as Minister of Finance for more than eight years, and really hoping to turn around Cape Verde’s economy by getting back to where they were before. Obviously, they started at a low growth in scale, middle income country and it’s relatively small but she’s extremely well regarded.
Mutizwa: Well, for the last three candidates, I want you to quickly compress them into one conversation, Thomas Sakala from Zimbabwe, I mentioned him last because I don’t want any accusation that I’m trying to promote a fellow countryman. Birama Boubacar Sidibe from Mali, then Samura Kamara from Sierra Leone.
Gast: Kamara, very skilled Minister of Finance, Central Bank Governor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The question is, can Sierra Leone afford to be without him? Especially with the economy suffering quite a bit from the Ebola crisis so that’s a question Sierra Leone has to ask itself- but he’s extremely well qualified. You mentioned Vice President Sidibe of the Islamic Development Bank. Certainly he has experience with the AFDB but not on the world stage as some of the other candidates. Then let me talk about your favourite candidate from your country, Thomas Sakala.
Definitely a very seasoned person, he’s worked in many different transactions in the AFDB, and infact when Donald Kaberuka came in in 2006, he was actually the chair of the reform committee. I have read some of his comments and he wants to continue the path that Donald Kaberuka has laid. So if Mr Sakala were to become president I don’t think you will see a lot of change, I think you will see a deepening of the reforms Donald Kaberuka has put in place.
Mutizwa: Earl, you sit in Washington where a lot of the lobbying will be happening ahead of these elections at the end of May. I’m trying to find out if you’ve got any insight in terms of the shareholding structure of the bank. In terms of who the shareholding will favour, we know the bank is controlled fifty percent by African countries, forty percent by the none region members including the donors, give me a sense of who you think is likely to sell to whom and why.
Gast: I think everyone would be open. What’s really critical, I’ve got three in my view, is the vision statements that are coming from each of the candidates and that will come out on the 20th of March. Each candidate will lay out his or her vision for the bank and that is very important. Another very important step that I think will influence this election is the interview process that takes place the day before the actual voting, that would be a chance for the board to interact with all of the candidates. I really do think that that’s an important step and decisions won’t be made until that interview process takes place.
Mutizwa: When you look at the regional politics of the bank, there has always been consideration about where the candidates come from. We have had people from East Africa, West Africa – Southern Africa hasn’t had a central head of the AFDB in a long time apart from Lumumba from Zambia and that was decades ago. We haven’t had a leader from Central Africa, so would that play a role?
Gast: It certainly plays a role in AU politics and other international organisations. I think lesser if you look at the history of the AFDB. What I have seen from other development banks to the international organisations is a favouring of the larger organisations than smaller ones, and that hasn’t been the case in the history of AFDB. Donald Kaberuka comes from a small country- Rwanda, but it’s a country that punches above its weight in so many ways. I do think that there is a very strong chance for candidates who are coming from smaller countries; also I don’t know whether or not there will be a bias toward favouring one regional organisation over another.
Mutizwa: Thank you very much indeed.
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