The ongoing leadership crisis at The African Development Bank (AfDB) has taken a new twist as the Board of the Bank succumbed to pressure from the USA authority, calling for an independent review into the bank’s process that exonerated Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, the President of the AfDB from the 16 points allegation of the whistleblowers of which he totally refuted, and was subsequently cleared by the Ethics Committee of the Bank.

The decision of the bank to call for an independent review, contrary to the rules of the bank has now potentially put the long-term future of the bank in a precarious situation. At the center of the crises is a leadership confrontation battle between Nigeria and other African countries on one side, against the USA and other European countries on the other side. Ultimately, the outcome will have a fundamental impact on the resource and economic control of the Africa continent.

In order to have a proper perspective of the final analysis, let us briefly highlight the major issues of contention:

  • The Ethics Committee of the Bank, made up of Executive Directors representing shareholder nations, cleared Adesina on every single allegation. The report described the allegations as frivolous, baseless, and without merit or evidence.
  • Unsatisfied with this result, the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin demanded that a fresh and in-depth independent investigation be conducted. According to Mnuchi,  “We have deep reservations about the integrity of the Committee’s process. Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing”. The American decision was supported by some of the shareholders, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway.
  • There are 81 shareholders altogether, comprising of 54 African countries and 27 Non-African countries (including all G7 countries). The largest shareholder is Nigeria (9%), followed by Egypt, and the USA as the largest non-African shareholder.
  • Significance of the Ethics Committee? 
  • It has powers to make recommendations to the Chairman of the bank’s Board; the highest decision-making organ of AfDB. The Ethics Committee submitted that the allegations were frivolous and should be dismissed. The Chairperson of the Board of Governors upheld the recommendation.
  • Many African leaders have criticized the request for independent investigation as being outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the Bank, and they went further to expressed support for Adesina. Leading the support is the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari as well as other prominent former African Presidents.
  • Former Nigerian President, OlusegunObasanjo also wrote to the Governing Board, highlighting commendable progress of AfDB under Adesina, saying the bank “has been actively positioned as an effective global institution, and ranks fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions. The letter was signed by 15 respectable past African presidents.

 In the Final analysis:

On the strength of the comments by the US Treasury Secretary, followed by decision of the Board of AfDB to make a compromised gesture by inviting an independent reviewer, the outcome of the review is unlikely to satisfy either party.

If the result goes against Adesina; firstly, it will imply a regional failure, lack of integrity and incompetence amongst African leaders as indicated in Steven Mnuchin’s letter. Secondly, it will highlight another dent on Nigeria’s national pride and relevance as the largest shareholder of the bank. Thirdly and most importantly, it will leave an irreparable blemish on the distinguished achievements of Adesina, potentially preventing him to vie for any international leadership position in the future. Some concerned Nigerian diplomats have suggested that Nigeria might have to reconsider her interest in the Bank if Adesina is forced out.

From the US stand-point, the Treasury Secretary has indirectly vetoed a request for independent investigation; stating categorically that US did not have confidence in the outcome of the AfDB Board, indirectly insinuating that Adesina is guilty and must be discredited.

According to French media, the whistleblowing was orchestrated by Stephen Dowd, the US representative at the Bank. If the independent review exonerates Adesina again, it will be an unthinkable catastrophic failure on the part of the US. It will signify a good reason for US to finally pull-out of the bank: a scenario that had been mooted in close quarters.

Taking a deeper look at the crises, the issue at the heart of the challenge is actually beyond Adesina. It’s all about economic dominance of Africa, a battle between the USA and China. Adesina just happened to be on the pathway. America is not pleased with Adesina for refusing to condemn China’s influence in Africa; rather he once commented “Do not be overly concerned about China’s presence in Africa economically. Be more concerned about America’s absence.”

The US agenda for economic influence on Africa is well documented and far reaching. In 2019, the US set up a potentially competing finance institution, Development Finance Coorporation (DFC) – with approximately $60 billion. It has been suggested that with the control of both the World Bank and DFC, the US will challenge the influence of China on the continent, and Adesina is regarded as a stumbling block that must be removed by all means.

The future of the bank is in the balance, and former president Obasanjo captures the ultimate potential final outcome when he wrote in his letter “If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa”.

African group, the call is on you to stand up and be counted!

Adesina’s achievement at AfDB:

  • In 2019 he secured a historic capital increase of $115bn (from $93 billion to $208 billion).  
  • Developed a $10bn Crisis Response Facility to support African countries in the fight against Coronavirus.
  • Launched a $53bn ‘Fight COVID-19’ social bond, the largest US dollar-denominated social bond in world history, secured at 0.75 per cent interest rate


  • Epitome of African Pride –

A Pan-Africanist of the modern generation and regarded as one of Africa’s brightest and best in Africa today, AkinwunmiAdesina  has succeeded in producing a glaring strategic transformation achievements at African Development Bank Group.

At 58, he is the 8th elected President of the AfDBand the first Nigerian to attain the position. He is a renowned economist, a writer, and an agricultural development expert with 25years of international experience.He had a first class honours degree in agricultural economics at the University of Ife, Nigeria, and thereafter went for his masters and PhD studies at Purdue University, U.S.A.

Adesina was once the minister of agriculture and rural development in Nigeria, and has previously worked for various international organization: The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, West Africa Rice Development Association Bouake, Ivory Coast. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as the Vice President – Policy and Partnerships. He also once served as Associate Director and Regional Director of the Rockefeller Foundation in South Africa,

He has written over 70 scholarly publications on policy, agricultural development, and African developmental issues. DrAdesina has worked and lived in 15 African countries. Some of his international awards include Forbes Africa Person of the Year award (2013), Winner of the World Food Prize of $250,000 (2017) and Sunhak Peace Prize of $500,000 (2017).


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