AfDB serving African interests despite foreign ownership
By Timo Shihepo
Windhoek – There is fear that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is falling into a path of being captured by western countries that have about 40 percent of the representatives sitting on the African Development Bank board.
The AfDB, which has 20 executive directors, has reserved at least eight spots to non Africans from other continents. This is in contradiction with the African Union reforms’ proposal, which is imploring Africa to pay its own bills so that the continent can be independent.
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob has also cast doubt on the bank’s independence when 12 executive directors were in the country last week. He asked them whether the bank is still independent if it’s swamped by big powers.
The bank however insists that these representatives who are non-Africans are merely there because their countries of origin are donors to the bank.
Lately, the bank has had an interesting fund with the Chinese, called Growing Together Fund. This fund entails that the bank puts up money and the China doubles or triples it.
AfDB says there is nothing wrong with that partnership saying that this has helped make a big fund which is spend on development infrastructures all over Africa.
AfDB directors, who paid a courtesy call to President Geingob at State House April 7, were in the country to see how projects they are funding are progressing.
Geingob asked whether it was still an African bank if it heavily relies on big powers to fund African projects. He said he sincerely hopes that Africa is still controlling the shares in the bank.
“We are about to be captured again. How can it be an African development bank if all these people from outside Africa are here (at state house)? Some of the executive directors represent more than four countries (does it show his financial powers) but some like America only represent themselves. What does that tell us?” the Namibian President asked.
Geingob added that the problem with Africa and sometimes in the world is that laws are created and beautiful policies are well written, but implementation is lacking.
In response, the bank said it allowed non-African representation because these international agencies were willing to donate money to the AfDB.
The bank came up with the idea to include them in the group but reserving the AfDB’s structures to Africans, with a strict stipulation that people from outside Africa cannot occupy more than 40 percent of the chairs.
Mohamed Zaghloul, who headed the AfDB team said at some critical times when it comes to voting that’s when they include one or two votes from non-Africans.
He however said most of the time the bank is in the hands of Africans. “Most of our staff are also African nationals.” The policy also include that the president of the bank should all times be an African.
Zaghloul further noted that it’s more like a procedural issue putting these countries together just to make sure that at least each chair has equal votes on the board.
Namibia University of Science and Technology Deputy Director at the Department of Economics, Kofi Boamah told The Southern Times that although he wants to see the bank funding itself he said it’s difficult at the moment.
“It all depends on how the bank gets its funds. Although I want to see Africa funding this bank, at the moment we just can’t. And if those countries are funding the bank of course they would want their representatives there.”
He said Africa has been unable to help itself not just with the bank but with many other issues such as wars.
“Most of the time we have to rely on these same countries to help out with our issue for example when there was war in Mali they sent troops from France. In business you use people’s money to function and if you don’t do this then you cannot function.”
The AFDB team visited Namibia from April 3-7 to conduct high level consultations with Namibian authorities and key stakeholders. They also visited Walvis Bay, where the bank is funding the construction of a new container terminal.
The team acknowledged the strong partnership between Namibia and the Africa Development Bank.
“Since commencing operations in the country in 1991, the bank group has committed about US$705 million (R9.7 billion) in 25 projects, supporting largely the financial sector and the transport sector. The bank’s ongoing portfolio in Namibia is estimated at US$533 million (R7,1 billion), has more than doubled since 2009, and is at its highest level since the start of bank operations, with strong potential for further growth.
“The two operations under the preparation include a policy based intervention supporting reforms that promote macroeconomic stability, social progression and industrialisation and an infrastructure investment program are expected to support job creation for an inclusive growth trajectory,” Zaghloul said.
Zaghloul also highlighted AfDB’s willingness to transform itself in such a way that it is focussed on particular priorities for development in Africa.
Such priorities include energy, agriculture, industrialisation and regional integration.
“We all know that Africa is hungry for energy and that is one of the biggest priorities for AfDB. Agriculture is the major employer and feeding Africans. Industrialisation is also one of the priorities with the aim to make Africa a major player in adding value rather exporting our raw materials. Regional integration is another one, trading within African countries instead of trading outside all the time,” said Zaghloul.