Adesina, AfDB and the emerging world

Adesina, AfDB and the emerging world
July 04
22:10 2020

The African Development Bank(AfDB) whose Nigerian chief executive Dr Akin Adesina has been at the centre of an on-going controversy over ethical issues has received a rating of AAA/A-1+ in the latest assessment report on the bank released on June 19, 2020 by Standard and Poor(S&P) the highly reputable international financial rating agency. In layman terms this is equivalent to a score of excellent or distinction. The report proceeds to say that with this rating, the outlook for the bank is strong, stable and reliable.

As a private agency which places high score on reputation, S&P could not have been coerced or unduly influenced to arrive at this verdict. Indeed against the background of the on-going hiatus involving the bank’s Nigerian chief executive, the rating agency will be expected to go over the bank’s operations with a more than normal diligence. But for S&P to return such a clean bill of operational health is a clear testimony that the controversies swirling around Dr Adesina had to do with issues other than his competence and performance as the bank’s chief executive.
In a little over a month in August, the bank’s board of directors would be expected to renew Adesina’s appointment for another five year term being the sole candidate for the position. But some very influential shareholders of the bank, notably the United States of America, France, and some Nordic countries are balking at Adesina’s reappointment. The Americans have rallied the naysayers to insist that Dr Adesina step aside for a probe by an independent investigator into some 16 allegations of misconduct levelled against Dr Adesina by whistle-blowers within the bank. The governance and ethics committee headed by a Japanese director of the bank had thoroughly investigated the allegations and absolved Adesina of any wrongdoing. And the Bank’s Board of Directors had also endorsed the findings of the ethics committee giving Dr Adesina the all clear. But the Americans and their allies would have none of it.

If both the ethics committee and board of Directors of the bank have not found anything untoward in the allegations against Dr Adesina and if reputable rating agencies like S&P have through a rigorous assessment returned a credit rating of excellent in favour of the bank, nobody need be told that the Americans have reasons other than ethical management of the bank for their posture.

Indeed with the coming of the Trump administration, America has been behaving like a bull in a China shop internationally (no pun intended) tearing off agreements the country had entered into, threatening multilateral agencies and alliances like NATO, United Nations, and the European Union. In the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic, the Americans had demanded that the Ethiopian Director General of the World Health resign and threatened to withdraw their financial contribution to the institution if he did not.

Independent observers attribute this behaviour to the deep unease and misgivings Americans have on the on-going shifts in world geopolitics in which American dominance is being challenged by aggressive new powers like China. In step with this development, nowadays the Americans see the hand of the Chinese in every international/multilateral institution whose chief executive or board of Directors try to steer an independent course. It is therefore not surprising that just as the Americans had accused the WHO Director General of pandering to Chinese interests on the Covid-19 and hence asking for his resignation and the subsequent threat to withdraw their contribution, the same is also implied in the case of Dr Adesina in the AfDB.

In this regard it is highly commendable that the African bloc shareholders have risen in stout defence of Dr Adesina and the bank. It is also praiseworthy that president Buhari as the leader of Nigeria which is the largest single shareholder in the bank and the country which Dr Adesina hails from has expectedly supported him to the hilt. Nigeria has rallied a coalition of critical African and Asian stakeholders of the bank in support of Dr Adesina reappointment bid in August. It greatly helps that president Buhari’s chief of staff, professor Ibrahim Gambari is himself a man with the necessary diplomatic credentials to follow through this task.
It is just as well because it is the Africans who more than anybody else can really testify to the worth of Dr Adesina and the difference he has been making at the AfDB. Under Dr Adesina’s watch the bank’s capital base has increased exponentially from some 100 billion to 208 billion US dollars. This means more funds available to undertake those interventions in support of the critical sectors of African development like agriculture, entrepreneurship, small and medium business and infrastructure.

Dr Adesina has also been driving robustly, the AfDB’s “high five’’ mission thrust on African development; lighting up and powering Africa, feeding Africa, industrializing Africa, integrating Africa through infrastructural projects and developing and raising the quality of life in Africa.

By the reckoning of the Americans, this ambitious independent initiative of the AfDB uncannily resembles ‘’Belt and Road” project with which China hopes to worm its way into the world. The fact that Dr Adesina is aggressively pursuing this initiative at this point in time is enough for the paranoid and petulant Americans to want to put a spanner in the works. And the fact too that the Chinese are stealthily but steadily pushing into Africa is predictably making the Americans go hot under the collar. Under the circumstances if the Africans cave in to the demand of the Americans, the so called outside investigator will almost certainly work to the American answer.

However in what can be seen as a victory for the steadfastness of the African bloc on the issue of Dr Adesina, the AfDB’s board of Directors have spurned the demand by the Americans for an outside probe and instead on July 1, 2020 appointed a panel of three eminent but neutral international figures to review the process which exonerated Dr Adesina and recommend remedial measures if needed in the future. This is in tandem with Nigeria and Africa’s position on the issue. This panel is headed by the respected Mary Robinson, human rights lawyer and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.

This development goes to show that in the emerging world African countries can only remain relevant if they steadfastly and collectively defend their interests.

Gadu can be reached via [email protected], 08035355706 (sms only)


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