A Candidate for the top job at the African Development Bank (AfDB)

Come December 31, 2014, Ethiopia will likely declare its fielding of a candidate for the top job at the African Development Bank (AfDB), the continent’s most important financial institution, gossip disclosed. After a tenure of two five-year terms as president of the AfDB, which is owned by 78 nation-states including 20 out-of-region countries, the institution’s current high-profile chief executive, Donald Kaberuka from Rwanda, is on his way out.

Back in 2005, Rwandan president Paul Kagame had thrown his full support behind the last-minute candidacy of his former Finance Minister Kaberuka, using his private jet to shuttle across the continent and elsewhere to campaign among the bank’s shareholders. Kaberuka in turn is known to have significantly raised the bar for future holders of this prestigious office. The AfDB presidency is a very powerful office, since it includes not just the function of President, but also those of Chairperson of the Board of Directors, as well as Chief of Staff of the Bank. Since the position is exclusively reserved for natives of the continent, it is not surprising that heads of state across the continent a scrambling to each field a credible candidate of their own.

Although Ethiopia is a founding shareholder of the bank, the country has no historical record of submitting a candidate of its own, gossip claims. The closest it got, recalls gossip, was back in the mid 1990s, when Tekalign Gedamu, a prominent banker during the Imperial era and later vice-president of the AfDB, aspired to try his luck. Alas, gossip claims, he was too much at odds with the rebel-cum-rulers of the time to win their endorsement, and hence an opportunity was lost for Ethiopia.

But hark!!, a once-in-a-generation opportunity has now availed itself again, in the persona of none other than Sufian Ahmed, minister of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED), who has recently been touted by public-relations-stunted magazines across the continent as one of the likely candidates for the office. Indeed, an incident in the back corridors of a recent summit by African heads of state affirmed his candidacy, when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn confided his plan to put forth his candidature, gossip disclosed. However, he was countered at the meeting by Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, who also disclosed a plan to have one of his own run for the office.

Both countries will have their respective candidates announce an intent to run for the office at the end of this year, gossip says. The contest will be hard-fought, since others – from Cape Verde to Senegal and the countries of the SADC – will likewise do their utmost to have their own preferred candidates get (s)elected during the Bank’s annual meeting scheduled for May 15, 2015 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, according to gossip.

Yet, no candidacy worries Ethiopian authorities more than the challenge which may come from the Senegalese Makhtar Diop, who is now World Bank’s vice president for Africa, gossip disclosed. Unlike Sufian, Diop speaks both working languages of the AfDB and is at ease with himself in navigating through the corridors of international financial institutions. Others see a more formidable challenge coming from Cristina Duarte of Cape Verde, whose candidacy may turn out to be strong should Senegalese President Macky Sall withdraw his own candidate in support of her, gossip observed.

Come March 2015, Sufian and his contenders will have to submit written statements of vision for the Bank, in English and French, gossip disclosed. He may bank on Ethiopia’s on-going economic transformation as a rallying ground to win support – particularly among shareholders such as China, India and Turkey where this resonates – and may declare a significant part in that transformation as long-serving finance minister, claims gossip. He may declare his desire to help replicate such economic miracles in every member state, where he knows many of the ministers from his years serving the Bank as a board member, claims gossip.

For a change, Ethiopian authorities are showing their resolve to see one of their own come out on top, someone who is supported by current governors from East Africa, the continent as a whole, as well as non-regional members, gossip disclosed. Nonetheless, their candidate has couple of limitations in his claim for the office. For one, Sufian is not a French speaker, although this is not a formal necessity, claims gossip.

However, gossip sees Sufian as an introvert by nature, who will need to spend millions of dollars transforming his persona, hiring coaches, strategists and campaign organizers. A shrewd political operator may often keeps himself from saying more than what is absolutely necessary, Sufian, however, does overplay this tactic, to the frustration of his promoters and to his own disadvantage, claims gossip. He lacks colour and charm, claims gossip.

Natural gregariousness and an abundance of cash resources thus appear to be a forte reserved to Akinwumi Adesina (PhD), Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development, gossip observed.

While heads of state from Nigeria and Cape Verde have already begun their campaigns to solicit support for their respective candidates, Prime Minister Hailemariam and his top lieutenants at the foreign office appear to prefer holding their collective breaths, waiting for the right time to strike, gossip claims.

Published on November 02, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 757]



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