May 28, 2015 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) votes for a new president today, to replace outgoing President Donald Kaberuka, who hails from tiny Rwanda in east Africa.
The premier Africa bank, established in 1964 to pioneer and spearhead Africa’s economic growth and development aspirations, started its 50th annual meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Monday, 25 May (Africa Liberation Day) and will climax on Friday, 29 May, by which time the rest of Africa will have known the new man at the helm of affairs at the bank.
This particular meeting is very significant for two reasons: the election of a new president who will direct the strategic business plan of the development oriented bank for the next ten years, and the fact that Abidjan is hosting the first meeting since the bank returned to base, after it temporally relocated to Tunis, as a result of civil strife.
For Sierra Leoneans though, the meeting is arguably the biggest in recent years as our very own Dr. Samura Kamara is gunning for the top job, up against seven other candidates from across the continent. It is every patriotic Sierra Leonean’s dream that the soft-spoken and modest Dr. Kamara wins the contest. And the reason is simple: it will further showcase how fast we have come as a nation from a macabre civil strife to peace and transitioning from overcoming a deadly Ebola outbreak, albeit both as a result of systemic failure and ineffectual leadership.
Outgoing AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, who is from tiny Rwanda, has negated the view that might is right and firmly ensconced the belief that a country of miniature stature or population can also produce heavyweight boxers, albeit in the ring of economic growth and development.
And in this contest of seven heavyweight boxers, our very own Dr. Samura Kamara may just become the gladiator to ascend the presidency and glide the continent into pro-poor growth and economic development, gender and youth empowerment. With a continent teeming with youths and one in need of gender rights emancipation and rural development, perhaps the time for take-off is now, the new AfDB president being the pilot in the cockpit.
This year’s African Economic Outlook emphasizes the need to localize growth by unlocking local economies, with particular emphasis on youth and developing rural trade corridors. In essence the task ahead of the next president is to prepare Africa, in the next ten years, towards modernizing local economies and putting premium on increasing living standards, as the continent is projected to triple in population size by 2050.
Despite the Ebola in West Africa, the continent’s growth rate is expected to reach 4.5% this year and 6% next year, according to the African Economic Outlook report.
“African countries have shown considerable resilience in the face of global economic adversity. For future growth to be sustainable and transformative will require that its benefits are shared more equitably among the population and that governments continue to pursue policies that promote economic stability,” says Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President of the AfDB.
Thus the successful candidate among eight contenders will shoulder the huge burden and expectation of an entire continent in search of her rightful place in the global community.
The candidates are: Dr. Samura M.W. Kamara, 64, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and erstwhile Minister of Finance and Economic Development and Governor of the Central Bank of Sierra Leone; Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, 55, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria and former Vice President (Policy and Partnership) at Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Sufian Ahmed of Ethiopia, 57, Minister of Finance and Economic Development; Jaloul Ayed, 64, from Tunisia, President, MED Confederation; Kordje Bedoumra, 63, Chadian Minister of Finance and Budget; Cristina Duarte, 53, Minister of Finance and Planning, Cape Verde; Thomas Z. Sakala, 55, Zimbabwean and former AfDB staff until 2014; and Birama Boubacar Sidibe, 63, Malian, Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank.
The crowded field of candidates comprises four West Africans, including one female candidate, one East African, one Southern African, one North African and one Central African.
It is every Sierra Leonean’s wish, devoid of creed, political persuasion, sex or tribe, that a modest man from a humble beginning in Kalangba, in the Bombali District, northern Sierra Leone, scoops the top banking job on the continent.
Indeed Dr. Samura Kamara’s experience had taken him to many places, including supranational organizations like the Commonwealth, thus gaining a wealth of experience, which he has shared with his country and is more than willing to share with the rest of Africa!
In the past, the AfDB has had presidents from north, southern, west and east Africa, which seems to suggest the selection or election of a new president will be predicated on competence and ability – which our candidate has lock, stock and barrel.
First in line as president of the historic bank was Mamoun Beheiry, Sudan, 1964 – 70; Abdelwahab Labidi, Tunisia, 1970 – 76; Kwame Donkor Fordwor, Ghana, 1976 – 79; Godwin Gondwe, Malawi, (Caretaker), 1979 – 80; Willa Mung’Omba, Zambia, 1980 – 85; Babacar N’diaye, Senegal, 1985 – 95; Omar Kabbaj, Morocco, 1995 – 2005; and Donald Kaberuka, Rwanda, 2005 – 2015.
If an inference can be drawn from the above list of past presidents, then the optimist in me tells me Dr. Samura Kamara will today be given the mandate by the Board of Governors, on the recommendation of the Board of Directors, to serve the bank for a decade as Chief Executive and legal representative of the Bank.
Also, as President of the Fund as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors, he will be expected to recalibrate the organization’s structure, functions and responsibilities as well as the regional and country representation offices, as he steers the bank into its Golden Jubilee.
As he readies himself to step into the giant shoe of Rwandan Donald Kaberuka, it is hoped that Dr. Samura Kamara’s scarlet letter day is today! A day he will launch a new vision for the bank, as he emulates his predecessor, coincidentally from another small country with a past similar though not entirely akin to Sierra Leone’s, to lead Africa into the New Global Landscape, with sound policies. In the prophetic words of the outgoing AfDB President, “It is not money that delivers development, it is the policies that do”.