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28 May 2015 14:23
Finance Minister Nhlanhla said that although Africa's needs have changed, the African Development Bank had not repositioned itself to deal with African challenges. (David Harrison, M&G)
As the African Development Bank (AfDB) prepares to elect its
new president this week the question of its governance structures and business model has been called into question.
The incumbent president Donald Kaberuka shocked delegates on
Tuesday at the 50th annual AfDB meeting in Abidjan when he said the bank’s governance structures and business model “were wrong”. He said these were the reasons behind the bank’s inability to achieve some of its mandates and
goals, including those of poverty alleviation and the lowering of inequality and
The AfDB was founded in 1964 and has drawn criticism from some for its
neoliberal stance that has left some African countries worse off.
During the Asian-African conference in Indonesia in April,
leaders of emerging nations from the two continents pushed for the
establishment of a development bank to rival the old Bretton Woods
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who spoke at the
conference in his capacity as African Union president and Southern
African Development Community (SADC) chairperson, said policies fostered by the
Bretton Woods institutions had led to deindustrialisation and declining income
in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mugabe criticised the institutions for “failing to
deliver solutions” to alleviate poverty, distribute wealth and close the
inequality gap in developing countries.
In an interview with the Mail
& Guardian in Abidjan on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said
he would agree with Kaberuka that perhaps the Bretton Woods institutions needed
to adapt to the needs of the countries they serve.
He said although Africa’s needs had changed over the last 50 years, the bank had not repositioned itself to deal with African challenges.
“That is one of the things you will see in the
He said the establishment of the Asia Infrastructure
Investment Bank was a wake-up call for the AfDB. He said the emergence
of new institutions posed a challenge and have forced them to change
their business model as there is now increased competition. He added that the
infrastructure gap in Africa was big enough to accommodate the existence of all
multilateral development banks.
On Wednesday the board of governors of AfDB held their first
sitting to discuss and speak with the eight candidates running to take over
from Kaberuka on September 1. Nene told the M&G
that South Africa had taken the SADC decision to back one candidate, Zimbabwean Thomas
Sakala, a former AfDB vice president of country and regional programmes.
“We could have gone as a country and put forward a candidate
but we went as a regional bloc. In this instance SADC took a decision that we
are not putting a country candidate. The SADC candidates were picked and put
through the same process that they will be put through now during the
presidential selection,” said Nene.
He said he believed Sakala was the best candidate for the position, but this should not be seen as Zimbabwe or SADC trying to consolidate its power
over the continent.
If Sakala is elected president, Zimbabwean nationals would
lead the African Union, SADC and AfDB.
‘It is our time’
Ahead of his interview with the board of governors, Sakala
told the M&G that his election should not be seen as a
geopolitical power play on the continent but rather that every region had a
right to elect a candidate.
“The only group of countries that will vote for me is SADC;
as for the rest I don’t want to speculate. SADC believes that it is our time,”
When asked about whether he would have to answer to Mugabe
as chairperson of SADC and the AU president, his response was: “I don’t want to
answer questions about my president [Mugabe], the AU or the AU structure. I am
happy that he is the AU president [and the SADC chair],” he said.
He also refused to directly comment on Kaberuka’s comments
about the board of governors and the bank’s business model. He did however
say it was important to revisit the structure of multilateral development banks
that were formed after World War II. He said the route the bank would take would be determined by the demands of its member states and its programmes would be aligned to pro-infrastructure, development and pro-poor
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