On May 28, Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, was elected as the new president of the African Development Bank – the continent’s multilateral development finance institution. Adesina takes the helm from Rwandan economist, Donald Kaberuka, who has served in the post for the maximum period permitted – two five-year terms.
The appointment marks the growing influence of Nigeria, not only as Africa’s financial powerhouse, but also in terms of its diplomatic role and political clout in the region
Only the eighth person to be appointed to the role, the agricultural economist beat Chad’s former Finance Minister, Kordjé Bedoumra, and Cape Verde’s serving Finance Minister, Cristina Duarte, by 60 percent. Voting was carried out by the AfDB’s board of governors, which comprises 54 regional member states and 26 non-regional members. Voting powers are weighted, with Nigeria, the US and Egypt yielding the most influence in elections.
Since being established in 1963, the AfDB has held a firm position on electing individuals from smaller African economies so as to offset the balance of power in the region. By electing an individual from Africa’s largest economy, the group has made a clear shift from this norm. Moreover, the appointment marks the growing influence of Nigeria, not only as Africa’s financial powerhouse, but also in terms of its diplomatic role and political clout in the region. Adesina’s presidency will also bring Nigeria’s in closer stead, politically speaking, with the continent’s former largest economy, which still enjoys considerable power in the region, as the African Union is headed by South African Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Adesina, who has served under outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, has taken a more commercial approach to agriculture and is credited for boosting rice production in Nigeria. The 50-year-old has also been praised for improving the country’s fertiliser subsidy programme, encouraging the diversification of crops among farmers and cracking down on corruption in the sector.
Adesina was considered among the favourites during the run-up to the election, winning favour with populist rhetoric during his campaign and speaking of greater inclusion across the continent. With a PhD in agricultural economics, during his campaign, Adesina naturally has focused on the importance of agriculture in Africa’s development and lifting nations out of poverty.
Following the announcement, which was made at the group’s 50th Annual Meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the group’s new president said that he was “humbled by this remarkable vote of confidence in me”. He also expressed praise to his predecessor; “I salute the excellent work of President Kaberuka. It will be a big challenge for me to step into his shoes. He leaves a solid bank behind him.”
The AfDB, which is charged to drive Africa’s economic and social development, has supported growth across the continent over the past decade in a pivotal period in the region’s economic advancement. According to the AfDB’s Annual Report, which was released just days before the group’s presidential election, the continent achieved 3.9 percent GDP growth in 2014, with the number expected to rise to 4.5 percent this year.
Adesina will assume office on September 1 this year, arguably taking to the helm at the cusp of a breakthrough in Africa’s economic development.