African Development Bank Elects New President, Raises Bar for Transparency

May 29, 2015

The African Development Bank dramatically raised the bar for public accountability and transparency in its presidential selection process by live tweeting the voting rounds last week in Abidjan. It’s already old news then that Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian candidate, will be the bank’s next president. Adesina garnered an impressive 60 percent of the regional vote and 58 percent of the total vote of the AfDB’s shareholders.

So what will the institution get with its new leader? You can judge for yourself by watching his performance during the CGD-hosted AfDB candidates forum in April. Although many of his comments were delivered in French, so have your translation software ready if you’re not fluent. Here’s a clip:

As far as vision goes, Adesina offered up an agenda that looks a lot like that of his predecessor, with emphasis on infrastructure, private sector, job creation, and regional integration. This does not represent a radical reset or course correction for the institution. Fortunately, by most accounts none is called for. It’s what the African continent overwhelmingly wants and what the AfDB does well.

There is one question mark though. Beyond the issues mentioned above, Adesina has repeatedly stressed the need for a greater focus on agriculture. That’s no surprise coming from an agriculture minister with a PhD in agricultural economics. And there’s no question that agriculture has been an underperforming sector in most African countries. Yet, beyond financing feeder and trunk roads, the AfDB hasn’t been a particularly big player in agriculture. This might lead to a future clash in priorities. Put differently, how much agriculture minister will stay within him as the AfDB President? Only time will tell.

But Adesina definitely will have the opportunity to make his mark early by shaping the institution through his management and staff selections. With current vacancies and expected departures, and against the backdrop of the bank settling back into its headquarters in Abidjan, the new president will need to make key hires a top priority in the early months. 

Ultimately, the bank’s effectiveness and Adesina’s legacy will rest on the institution’s ability to attract, retain, and promote the best and brightest from the region and from around the world. President Kaberuka has helped a great deal by handing off an institution with a strong reputation. But it will be up to the new president to build on that reputation one person at a time. Good luck Mr. Adesina.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.