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A who’s who of AfDB’s president Akinwumi Adesina’s network of allies

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Wednesday, 7 April 2021 14:51, updated on Thursday, 8 April 2021 10:00

Akinwumi Adesina at the Davos Economic Forum, January 17, 2020 © Jason Alden / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unanimously re-elected to a second term in August 2020 after a difficult year, the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina has a largely reshuffled staff and a streamlined, though no doubt stronger, network of allies.

Akinwumi Adesina

Adesina began his second term at the head of the AfDB stronger than ever. Reappointed with 100% of the vote in August 2020, Adesina was all the more delighted with this result as it came after a complicated year marked by accusations of bad governance.

After being cleared and then re-elected, he led a major reorganisation of his teams within the bank. The AfDB, which has been on the front lines responding to the economic and social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, is due to implement a historic capital increase that was agreed in 2019.

The recomposed entourage of Donald Kaberuka’s successor reflects these different priorities. The new team is also focused on maintaining the balance between African and foreign shareholders of the bank.

This circle of allies, built on old friendships and strengthened by the hardships of the past year, promotes Adesina’s and the bank’s work. Finally, a network of VIPs guarantees support and visibility to a boss with great ambitions and very good communication skills.

Staff

Bajabulile “Swazi” Tshabalala

South Africa’s Tshabalala, who is the AfDB’s number two and first vice-president, succeeded Charles Boamah, a long-time pillar of the bank, in March 2020. She joined the AfDB in August 2018 as vice-president for finance.

Yacine Fal

Managing director of the president’s executive office, Senegal’s Fal joined the AfDB in 1998 as a legal adviser. She went on to supervise procurement procedures and represent the institution in Morocco. Fal’s mission is to improve the efficiency of the “president’s initiatives and the bank’s operations”.

Solomon Quaynor

A veteran of the International Finance Corporation, Quaynor has been AfDB vice-president for the private sector, infrastructure and industrialisation since May 2020. This US citizen is one of the new faces of Adesina’s second presidency, along with his colleagues Kevin Kariuki (Kenyan, vice-president in charge of energy) and Rabah Arezki (Algerian, vice-president, chief economist).

Vincent Nmehielle

Less visible than during Adesina’s first term (2015-2020), where he often intervened alongside the former director of communication Victor Oladokun, this Nigerian-South African lawyer has been the AfDB’s secretary-general since 2016.

Allies

Nialé Kaba

Côte d’Ivoire’s minister of planning and development, who was also president of the AfDB’s board of governors at the time, handled the 2020 crisis and the accusations of bad governance directed against Adesina with composure. The latter, cleared by an internal investigation and an “independent review”, was re-elected with 100% of the vote.

Benedict Oramah

He completed a degree in agro-economics from Obafemi Awolowo University, just like Adesina. Oramah, head of the African Export-Import Bank, remains faithful to his “elder”, whose leadership and pan-Africanist ambition he praises.

Amadou Hott

Senegal’s economy minister, who was Adesina’s former vice-president at the AfDB (2016-2019) and in charge of the energy dossier, is one of his unwavering supporters. Hott chairs the committee that was formed to revise the institution’s ethics code after the tumult of 2020.

Zainab Ahmed

From Abuja, Nigeria’s finance minister Ahmed has been very active and has mobilised many African figures to support her compatriot during the battle for his re-election.

James Duddridge

The UK minister for Africa since February 2020 (and between 2014 and 2016), this Conservative member of parliament is an important ally to have as the AfDB seeks to complete its new capital increase.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki

The executive secretary of New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the African Union’s development agency, agrees with Adesina’s pragmatic approach to economic issues and the continent’s external relations.

VIPs

Alassane Ouattara

The AfDB’s return to Abidjan, decided by Kaberuka but implemented by Adesina, partly explains the privileged link between the latter and Côte d’Ivoire’s President. Ouattara has put his weight behind Adesina, publicly calling for his reappointment.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The friendly messages exchanged between “My brother Akin Adesina” and “Aunty Goz” on social media are countless. The two peers from Goodluck Jonathan’s government (2010-2015) have remained very close. Okonjo-Iweala, the new head of the World Trade Organisation, was heavily involved – alongside “godfather” Olusegun Obasanjo – in Adesina’s first presidential election in 2015.

Kristalina Georgieva

The IMF managing director and the AfDB president regularly exchange views on African countries’ financing, the continent’s new development goals and – more recently – on tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

Rémy Rioux

Close to his “friend Akin”, the head of the Agence Française de Développement has increased co-investments with the AfDB, whose historic capital increase he welcomes. The two leaders agree on the essential role of development institutions and providing support to the private sector.

Aliko Dangote

Dangote, a Nigerian billionaire from Kano, and Adesina, who holds a doctorate in agro-economics, share the same unshakeable faith in the continent’s agricultural potential. Both are among the “27 global leaders fighting against malnutrition”, named in October 2019 by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

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