The storm in a calabash orchestrated against the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, by the United States is quite in character with America's bullying tactics. The tragic irony of America's self-demystification is that it negates all the other good things that the country may have been doing on the African continent, and it also alerts Africans to beware of the US and its habitual braggadocio. But first, let's clear the cobwebs.
Akinwumi Adesina is, unarguably, the most successful, independent-minded president of the African Development Bank in its 56 years of existence. His agenda is pan-African; his interventions commonsensical. He has worked seamlessly with the governments of African nations to design practicable solutions to their problems and encouraged their aspiration for self-sufficiency, especially in agribusiness and infrastructure development.
Apart from making loans and equity investments available for the socio-economic advancement of African countries, the bank under Adesina has been providing technical assistance for development programmes and promoting investment of public and private capital for development. The AfDB also gives special attention to national and multinational projects for regional integration in addition to mobilising financial resources from governments or foreign financial institutions.
In a way, the president of AfDB is like Africa's minister of economic development. Nigeria holds the bank's largest shares followed by the United States, Egypt and Germany. But the US is not satisfied with being a ranking shareholder -- it wants veto power as revealed in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill. Stephen Dowd oversees America's interests as Executive Director in AFDB. The same man is soon to resume at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to represent US interests and may, as usual, foul the waters. Look out, Europe!
America wants to call the shots and, if that is not possible, destabilise the AfDB, discredit its leadership and engineer a low rating by the credit rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's (S&P), Moody's, and Fitch Group with the ultimate aim of destroying the institution.
Matters are not helped by the fact that Francophone countries in Africa are largely controlled by France and are vulnerable to divide-and-rule tactics.
From the moment he was sworn in, Adesina has been his own man. He is more of a technocrat than a politician, so he doesn't play politics the way the Americans want -- for example, by parroting the US rhetorics against China's presence in Africa. Adesina rather views the issue differently: "Do not be overly concerned about China's presence in Africa economically. Be more concerned about America's absence." Wise words, if you ask me!
His big dream for the continent informed his spearheading the increase of the Bank's shareholder general capital from $93 billion to $208 billion in spite of initial strong American opposition. The Africa Investment Forum, which AfDB sponsored in 2018 and 2019 attracted more than $80 billion in infrastructure investment interests, which some saw as an attempt by Adesina to help wean African nations off of a dependency on foreign aid and also burnish his ingratiate himself with African heads of state.
In 2019, the US set up the Development Finance Corporation, DFC - with approximately $60 billion. With DFC and firm control of the World Bank, the idea was that the US could easily checkmate China on the African continent.
I find the resort to outright lies by Bloomberg quite cheap. The US-based media outfit had claimed that Adesina had been asked to resign by the Board of Governors. Lies! The truth is that Adesina has been cleared by the duly constituted internal mechanism in accordance with the statutes of AfDB. Does America want to draft new rules in order to pave way for its own nominee?
Unfortunately, some undiscerning media houses in Nigeria have also fallen for the lies and blackmail of external forces who want to keep Africa down. I was shocked when our own PM News published the fake news of Adesina's resignation. Just one phone call could have saved the paper the serious embarrassment of being numbered among the purveyors of fake news.
Like a breath of fresh air, the Obasanjo-led initiative in which about 21 former African presidents, after expressing satisfaction with the giant strides achieved by AfDB under Adesina declared that, "No nation, regardless of how powerful, has a veto power over the African Development Bank, and no nation should have such power."
I sympathise with the US suddenly waking up to realise that it is losing out to China in Africa. In fact, the US will lose out to any other developed nation that wants to relate with Africans as partners. Given a choice, Africans would want to do business with America. But the relationship has to be a partnership, not one of raw blackmail or in-your-face bullying. We don't want your chokehold. We want to breathe!
Obasanjo's declaration in his original letter to his peers commends itself to all Africans: "Instead of accepting the exoneration of the President of the Bank, they (the US) called for an 'independent investigation'. This is outside of the rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the Bank. The US Treasury Secretary disparaged the Bank and ridiculed the entire governance system of the Bank, which has been in place since 1964. This is unprecedented in the annals of the African Development Bank Group. If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end ... ."
That should never happen.
(To be concluded next Week)