The United States has had its way getting the board of governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to allow an independent investigator to probe allegations of corruption against the bank’s president Akinwumi Adesina. Its ethics committee had earlier cleared him of all the allegations raised by a group of whistleblowers. However, the U.S., the largest non-African shareholder of the bank said the commttee did not do a good job and demanded an independent inquiry. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter dated May 22 and addressed to Niale Kaba, chairwoman of the bank’s board of governors, said the Treasury disagreed with findings by the bank’s ethics committee that “totally exonerated” Adesina.
The intervention by the Treasury came two weeks after the ethics committee found no evidence to support allegations of favoritism by Adesina. The 60-year-old bank chief, who has repeatedly refuted the allegations, is the only candidate up for election as president at an annual general meeting scheduled for August. “We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process,” Mnuchin said. “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.”
Adesina was accused by a group of unidentified whistleblowers of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions at the Abidjan-based lender. “Considering the scope, seriousness, and detail of these allegations against the sole candidate for bank leadership over the next five years, we believe that further inquiry is necessary to ensure that the AfDB’s president has broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate from shareholders,” Mnuchin said.
The U.S. has a 6.5% stake in the lender, the largest shareholding after Adesina’s home country of Nigeria as of November 2019, according to the AfDB’s website. U.S. criticism of the bank’s internal processes follows comments by World Bank President David Malpass in February that multilateral lenders including the AfDB tend to provide loans too quickly, and, in the process, add to African nations’ debt problems. The bank rebutted the statements as “inaccurate and not fact-based.”
The AfDB is Africa’s biggest multilateral lender and, under Adesina it has an AAA rating from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. Its shareholders are Africa’s 54 nations and 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia. In March, the lender issued a $3 billion social bond to help African countries deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Bids for the securities on the London money market exceeded $4.6 billion. The bank also launched a $10 billion crisis-response facility for African nations. These are no small achievements. It is a shame that rather than commendation, Adesina is being rubbished by Washington’s hangmen or moles in the bank. If he is the devil that he is being made to be, why is it that nobody is running against him in next month’s election? It is no secret that the U.S. does not want a Nigerian to head the AfDB. For years it has used its vote and those of its European allies to stop candidates put up by Nigeria for the bank’s president. Adesina, however, broke the jinx in 2015 and America did not like that. This is why it is pulling all the stops to stop Adesina’s reelection.
The United States is sure to lose face again, given the solid support Adesina has received from President Muhammadu Buhari and his 52 colleagues in the African Union (AU). Africa welcomes America’s partnership, but this is not to say it will always have its way. A second wave of colonialism is out of the question.