SWITZERLAND, MAY 29 – Despite receiving independence several decades ago. African countries have remained under the influence of powerful Western countries in the 21st century. Once again, this neo-imperialism has manifested in the undue influence certain countries such the United States, United Kingdom and France wield on African affairs, with regards to economy or politics. Today’s Echo believes this influence has once again, come to play in the current ordeals of the African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Femi Adesina.
Regarded as one of the shining examples of sterling African leadership, Adesina is currently battling to retain his position because of a fresh demand for his investigation from the United States of America. Right after it appeared that Adesina was going to be re-elected unopposed at the next Annual General Meeting(AGM) of the AfDB group, the US Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin wrote to the chairman of the bank’s board of governors, Mrs Kaba Niale, demanding for a fresh ‘independent’ investigation of the president with regards to allegations made against him by some whistleblowers. If the AfDB dances to America’s tunes, Adesina will have to stand aside while outsiders determine his fate. However, in line with standard procedure, the AfDB ethics committee had earlier cleared Adesina of all the whistleblowers’ 16 allegations.
Adesina’s Sterling Leadership at the AfDB
The AfDB has had a sterling five years under Adesina’s leadership, Today, the AfDB is Africa’s biggest multilateral lender and has a AAA rating from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. The AAA rating denotes the lowest expectation of default risk. They are assigned only in cases of exceptionally strong capacity for payment of financial commitments.
In March, the lender issued a $3 billion social bond to help African countries deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Bids for the securities on the London money market exceeded $4.6 billion. The bank also launched a $10 billion crisis-response facility for African nations. In November 2019, the bank’s board approved a 125 per cent capital increase to $208 billion, the largest in the lender’s history. The decision capped two years of negotiations to give the Abidjan-based bank greater scope to meet the continent’s funding needs.
In 2019, the AfDB provided $106 million to support Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in the immediate aftermath of the cyclones, in addition to other emergency support. The Bank also used its Africa Disaster Risk Insurance Facility to pay for insurance premiums for countries facing extreme weather events.
Under Adesina, the AfDB has also become increasingly Afrocentric; leaning towards policies that will increase participation of Africans in determining their own affairs and may weaken Western influence over African countries as the continent gains the spotlight.
Shortly after his election in 2015, he said ‘Africa’s youth must be employed in Africa’, an argument in favour of Africans staying in their homeland and contributing to its development rather than migrating to Europe or North America. He has also argued that Africa cannot continue to be commodity dependent, suggesting that ‘to increase their resilience and achieve sustained and long-term economic growth, African countries need to promote economic diversification.”
Moreover, Adesina is a firm advocate of intra-African trade to foster the continent’s development and one of the driving forces behind the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
“Apart and divided, Africa is weakened. Together and united, Africa will be unstoppable,” Adesina told delegates at the bank’s 2019 Annual General Meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
At the launch of the African Economic Outlook in January 2020, Adesina said Africa can no longer be ignored.
“Africa is where the focus of the world is right now as the growth and investment frontier,” he declared. It is now clear why those seeking to wield more influence over the African continent will detest Adesina’s leadership at the AfDB.
It is worthy to note that the United States is not the largest shareholder in the AfDB but the second, after Nigeria. However, the US leads a powerful block of shareholders that includes Japan, France and the Scandinavian countries. The bank’s shareholders are Africa’s 54 nations and 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia. About 41 per cent of their Group’s shareholding is held by non-regionals and multilateral development finance institutions.
The AfDB Group comprises three entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). The United States has been a member of the ADF since 1976 as well as the AfDB since 1983.
In 2008, the U.S. government, through a bilateral cooperation spelled out in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank signed with United State Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a five-year partnership. The pact was in support of African small and medium-sized enterprises to accelerate investment in Africa. The agreement also provided co-financing arrangements for a shared contribution of 40 per cent for the bank, 10 per cent for USAID and 50 per cent for other partnering banks.
Unlike other heads of multilateral institutions that had been disgraced from office in the past, Adesina has not been accused of fraud or misconduct, but of violating ethical standards. The 16-point accusations include arbitrary recruitment, private gain, impediment to efficiency, singlehandedly overruling decisions taken by directors, nepotism, political lobbying, use of bank resources for private gains. He was even accused of refusing to discipline a protégé who was accused of sexual harassment. However, the central point of these accusations is that the president has used his position to favour those seen as his cronies.
Looking critically at the 16 allegations of against the AfDB president, Today’s Echo can deduce that most of them are unsubstantiated, unspecific, and difficult to ascertain. For instance, the whistleblowers accused Adesina of ‘favouritism’ towards Nigeria and Nigerian citizens appointments to key positions, overlooking competence. However, the recent brilliant performance of the bank as this report will soon highlight, has only led credence to the competence of those in charge of the AfDB.
In his response to these accusations, Adesina has denied personally knowing many of the people he allegedly influenced their appointments. He also did not introduce an organisational chart with a Nigeria Country Directorate as accused. The decision to open a Nigeria Country Directorate was taken by the Board of Directors under his predecessor, the former President of the Bank, Donald Kaberuka.
Support for Adesina
Support for Adesina across the continent has trickled in, and it has been especially most profound in his home country, Nigeria. The Nigerian government, through the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, has written to the chairman of the bank’s board of directors, urging that the bank’s laid down procedure be followed in handling the case and referring to the findings of the ethics committee which is in line with the bank’s due processes.
“The Ethics committee, following three months of work to examine the whistle-blowers’ allegations made against the president, dismissed each and every one of the allegations as unsubstantiated and baseless,” Ahmed wrote.
Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo also gave Adesina his support in a letter dated Tuesday, saying the U.S. treasury secretary had “ridiculed” the bank’s governance and urging African leaders to stand up.
“If we do not rise up and defend the AfDB, this might be the end of the AfDB,” he said.
Former Director-General of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, took to Twitter to declare her support for Akinwunmi Adesina.
“President @AfDB Group is a man of integrity & a great leader. He remains the best man 2lead Africa’s great institution 4the next 5 years. I was #AfDB Staff17 years – loan officer 4North & West Africa -Treasurer and Group VP [and I know this],” she wrote.
Also declaring his support and praying for things to be resolved amicably was Minister of Finance, Economy and Planning of Equatorial Guinea, Cesar Mba Abogo, who said: “…as a testimony of my support for Dr. Adesina and all the Bank executives who have personally and adversely [been] affected by this situation and unfounded allegations, a few verses penned by John Donne (and popularised by Hemingway) come to mind.
“’No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee’.”
For now, Adesina retains his job. The board chairman, Kaba Niale announced on Thursday that no decision has been taken on the issue, in contrast to reports in some publications that the AfDB has caved-in to US demand for an ‘independent investigation.’
In conclusion, Africa has never really been independent. In most cases African countries are still tied to the apron strings of their former colonial masters, who in turn are allies of the United States, the dominant power of our generation. Perhaps this neo-imperialism is best illustrated in the influence that France still wields on Francophone countries in Africa, imposing the use of the CFA, a French-backed currency that ensures half of the countries’ treasury is kept with France.
As an illustrious son of Africa, Femi Adesina has taken steps towards ensuring self-sufficiency for the continent and inspire Africa to look inward, stepping on the toes of the neo-imperialists in the process. His ordeal is not a debate over ethics and favouritism as we are made to believe, it is a battle for the soul of Africa.