Nigeria’s Akinwunmi Adesina, the newly-elected president of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), must be ready to work his socks off to fill the big shoes that will be left in September by Donald Kaberuka, a Rwandan economist and the outgoing president of the bank.
Kaberuka, born October 5, 1951 in Byumba, Rwanda, was elected president of the bank in July 2005, as seventh AfDB president since its establishment in 1963. He was re-elected in 2010 and is serving the remainder of his second five-year term.
He was minister of finance and economic planning of the federal republic of Rwanda between 1997 and 2005, and is globally credited for stabilising the Rwandan economy post-1994 genocide.
He had a distinguished career in government service, banking, and international trade and development before joining the AfDB.
After studying at the University of Dar es Salaam as an undergraduate, he obtained his MPhil in Development Studies from University of East Anglia in 1979. He later received his PhD in Economics from the University of Glasgow.
Under his leadership, the bank was rated ‘Aaa/Prime-1, with a stable outlook,’ in 2013, by Moody’s, which explained that “the bank’s ratings reflect a combination of its intrinsic financial strength, prudent financial management and policies and very strong shareholder support”.
Kaberuka saw to it that the bank returned to Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s second-largest city, for its golden jubilee, taking about 1,000 people and their families from Tunis to Abidjan, having moved its headquarters to Tunis, Tunisia, in 2003, two years before his tenure, following the civil war in the country.
In 2012, he announced that the first group of staff will begin returning to Abidjan by the end of the year. “The AfDB will celebrate its 50th anniversary in November 2014 in Abidjan,” Kaberuka said in a statement.
Under his leadership, it has been a decade of strengthening the foundations of the bank, meeting Africa’s immediate needs, and pushing new boundaries. He will be remembered for his prompt response to crises.
He organised a collective African and global response to the 2008 financial crisis, and lending doubled in 2009. During the 2011 Arab Spring, the bank gave special support for grassroots initiatives for women and young people in Tunisia.
In 2014, in the face of the Ebola crisis, the bank provided high-speed funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partner countries.
Its private sector lending grew tenfold in a decade to $2 billion a year. He also brought in new focus on fragile states and gender equality, and a new strategic direction with inclusive and green growth as the cornerstones of the 2013-2022 bank strategy.
He recognised how the bank needed to unlock new funds and develop a new business model, and also launched new risk guaranty products and new financial products such as green bonds, and partnerships with new funders, like global Foundations.
Kaberuka’s impact was also felt outside Africa. He opened a new regional Asian office in Tokyo; he pushed for enhanced partnership with India and China; he established the bank as a global player and advocate for Africa.
“I concluded on arrival in office that five things were very urgent,” he said of his success story. “A big push on infrastructure, leading from the front on the private sector, economic integration, a focus on fragile states and leveraging power, knowledge and voice.”
To help minimize those factors, the bank, under him, invested $28 billion into infrastructure, $11 billion of which went into energy, as well as putting significant capital into transportation, water and information technology and communication.
The bank currently operates in 38 countries and 50 per cent of its portfolio is managed from the field, which is credited to him.
Kaberuka also recognised gender inclusion as a vital tool needed to improve change. Thus, he appointed a special envoy on gender to champion change and development both in the bank and on the continent.
Africa’s economy continued to grow under his watch in spite of challenges and recorded in a 3.9 per cent GDP growth in 2014-2015. This was ahead of the global average of 3.5 per cent.
AfDB launched 232 projects worth $7.59 billion in 2014. They include the bank’s $80 million contribution to the $380 million Henri Konan Bedié Bridge over the lagoon in Abidjan which carries 70,000 vehicles a day, and massively facilitates movement in the city.
Kaberuka passes the baton to Adewunmi on September 01, 2015. and offers his “very best wishes,” but warns that “10 years goes by very quickly”.
“It is a complex and merciless job, but it is very exciting. It in fact is not a job but a mission, which is very rewarding.”
And he is certain that Akinwunmi would do a very good job.
“My warmest congratulations to Akinwunmi Adesina, elected president of AfDB Group,” he wrote on twitter after the election. “Look forward to hand over on Sept 1st. He will do a great job.”