8 March 2013

Women of the AfDB

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Women make up more than half of the African population. The African Development Bank recognizes this and supports the important role of women on the continent both in the projects and programs it finances, and the contributions of its own female staff. On the occasion of International Women's Day, we pay tribute to a few female Bank staff members, who dedicate their time and energy to the institution and to Africa. It was impossible to do a portrait of each and every one, but here is a selection of a few women leaders, who inspire us on a daily basis.

Anne Kabagambe: "We should aim even higher"

Anne Kabagambe, Director of Cabinet and Chief of Staff, was born in Kisoro, in southwestern Uganda. Growing up, she spent her formative years in Uganda and the United States, where she attended the University of California, San Diego, and Columbia University in New York, studying international relations and economics. Anne later pursued a second master's degree in public policy at George Washington University in Washington, DC mid-way through her career at the Bank. Anne's first job was representing the City of New York at trade and investment opportunities overseas in China, India and the Middle East.

What woman or women influenced you most in your life and career?

I've always been influenced by women who have wanted to make a difference in the political arena. So the woman who comes to mind immediately is Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I first met her in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, after her service as Finance Minister in her country. She had this absolute confidence that there is nothing a woman cannot do; and there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to be a force to reckon with in the political future of her country.

What place does the promotion of the status of women occupy in your division/department?

There are twelve departments within the Presidency complex (UPRST), out of which five are headed by women: IACD (Integrity and Anti-Corruption), TRIB (Administrative Tribunal), OMBU (Ombudsman), SEGL (Secretary General) and SAPR (Chief of Staff and Director of Cabinet). I would be the first person to say that we should aim even higher, and that there is a lot more work to be done. But this should not simply be the promotion of women at the workplace and within their job responsibilities, but also the promotion of their overall well-being at home and with their families.

Word of advice for women today?

My advice to the women in the Bank is to read the book Lean In by the CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. I hope this is timely advice since the book will be out on the market this coming week. Sandberg addresses the challenges faced by women in the workplace and "the invisible barriers" that hinder career progress. I would like to especially recommend the book to the members of the Women's Network who may consider setting up its own "Lean in Circle" as a support group. In my judgment, this is a modern equivalent of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, which was considered revolutionary at the time.

Nnenna Nwabufo: "We must remain humble despite the heights we attain"

Nnenna Nwabufo, Director of the Strategy and Budget Department, was born in Nkwerre, in Eastern Nigeria, and grew up in Enugu and Lagos, Nigeria's former capital and the country's commercial capital. Nnenna studied at the University of Lagos and Henley Management College in Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom. She holds an MSc in Economics and an MBA. Nnenna's first professional job was with Chase Manhattan Bank in Lagos, where she started out working in Operations, reporting on letters of credit issued and paid, before moving to the Budget Department and later to the Treasury Department.

What woman or women influenced you most in your life and career?

I have been influenced both by many men and women. All around me and everywhere I go, I am influenced when I see good, humble and hard-working people.

What place does the promotion of the status of women occupy in your division/department?

Unfortunately, out of 26 staff members in COBS only four (15 per cent) of us are women.

Fortunately, we are expecting another woman to join us by the 1st of April. Despite this fact, I am happy to be leading the team and would definitely provide encouragement to the women members of the team to put in their best professional performance on the job. They have to be ready to compete for good opportunities to improve their status both in the department and the Bank at large. And, of course, whenever there are vacancies, we have to ensure that women candidates that qualify are given a fair chance.

Word of advice for women today?

Let us be hard-working, focused, friendly, respectful and supportive to one another. Above all, we must remain humble despite the heights we attain.

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