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New probe into Akinwumi Adesina could derail his quest for AFDB presidency

The African Development Bank which plays a key role in funding projects that fight poverty and improving the lives of people on the continent, is facing one of its biggest crises since its formation over half a century ago. The bank’s sharp dressing President Akinwumi Adesina who is due for re-election in August, is facing mounting pressure from within his own organisation to resign. 

At the heart of the issue are allegations made by a group of whistle blowers, who claim Mr Adesina made a number of breaches of the bank’s code of conduct. Accusations of corruption and favouritism towards his fellow Nigerian compatriots have also been made against him. Mr Adesina has denied all allegations and says a that fair and transparent processes will prove his innocence, the bank has also said the claims against its president are “frivolous”, so it’s clear who the board of directors have hedged their bets on. 

But it’s not quite a winning bet, not yet anyways. An internal probe meant to clear the way for Mr Adesina’s second term at the helm of the institution found him innocent. However the United States has put the brakes on matters somewhat. Led by bullish Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the US is not satisfied with the initial probe, and has called for a fresh investigation. The US is the bank’s second largest shareholder after Nigeria, which partly explains why it has been so vocal on this issue. Besides the core 54 African countries, there are 27 non-regional members, which include a number of European countries that have also called for a fresh probe into Mr Adesina and the bank’s ethics committee. 

However mounting pressure from non-regional shareholders has forced the bank’s hand into launching a new independent probe into the embattled Mr Adesina, whose path to a new five-year term now hinges on the outcome of the new investigation. While Mr Adesina clearly has enemies who are eager to see his exit, but he still has a number of staunch and very vocal supporters. There’s a fear amongst the continent’s top brass that Africa stands to lose control of the bank if Mr Adesina is ousted, former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says the new probe seeks to “derail and disrupt the premier Pan-African institution.” 

The troubles at the AFDB will be of great concern to those keen on promoting Africa’s developmental agenda, and as the continent continues to battle Covid-19, the bank will have an even bigger role to play in ensuring Africa’s economies can weather the storm. The bank has set aside $10 billion as part of its economic relief fund for Covid-19, strong, ethical leadership is needed to disperse these funds. Corruption, maladministration must be rooted out of our institutions if the continent is to move forward. If indeed the allegations against Mr Adesina are found to be true, he has to go. If he’s cleared, the bank must be allowed to continue its developmental agenda, the continent is in desperate need.

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