Kordjé Bedoumra, Chad’s Minister for Finance and the Budget, has thrown his hat into the ring for the presidency of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Backed up by his 29 years of experience working within the pan-African institution, he is one of the front-runners to take over from Donald Kaberuka. In this interview, he lifts the lid on his aims for the continent.
You are campaigning hard for the presidency of the AfDB. What new ideas will you bring so that the Bank can help play an active role in the transformation of the continent?
I should start by clarifying that the AfDB works on the basis of the current 10-year strategic plan, formulated in 2013 and extending to 2022. My role would be to use the Bank’s acquired knowledge and expertise to find quick solutions to its challenges. My goal is to focus on strategic objectives that reflect the main concerns within the continent. First among these is the creation of sustainable employment to cater to the great needs of young men and women. These people make up the largest part of the African population.
Job creation covers a number of areas, including promoting the private sector, especially SMEs and SMIs, as well as all activities and programmes that aim to create value in the rural sector.
Secondly, I would pay particular attention to developing human capital, by which I mean a healthy and educated population, and especially the mobilisation of African expertise, including the diaspora.
As well as financing the physical infrastructure needed for regional integration, it is crucial that we act quickly to remove the obstacles to inter-African trade, the circulation of goods, people and financial resources, as well as helping in rapid mobilisation of countries to deal with challenges and catastrophes of any kind.
Lastly, how can I not mention support towards safeguarding peace and security? The major economic and financial consequences of instability in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Great Lakes region force us to take better account of this dimension when considering development issues. Chad has no shortage of experience in this area to share.
Africa is in need of reforms to increase dynamism in its economies…
Africa has no shortage of proposed reforms! African countries are at various stages of development, from emerging economies to middle-income countries to low-income countries, to those that we refer to as ‘fragile states’. The reforms have to be tailored to each state’s individual circumstances, with the key requirement being that the reforms contribute to regional integration. This is because, and I can’t stress this enough, regional integration is the only lasting economic and social solution for our continent!
This is why the AfDB – whose main mission is to improve life for Africans, both individually and as a whole – needs to take wide-ranging measures to facilitate and speed up this integration. We will of course have specific areas of reforms to consider for each country.
An annual economic growth rate of 6% has not been enough to reduce inequality, which in turn has led to social tensions and instability. What are your ideas in terms of inclusive development?
Inclusive development means everyone should enjoy the benefits of growth. A consensus has emerged regarding this aim. I strongly believe that, in order to achieve this, a range of efforts are needed in terms of developing human capital, but the most important is providing decent employment for everyone. This is the best way to reduce or even wipe out inequality. Employment gives people the chance to stand on their own two feet and gives them the keys to realising their full potential. It’s well known that the majority of Africans are young men and women, and this group suffers from very high unemployment or underemployment.
What is your opinion on the synergy with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the AU, and how can the partnership between the AfDB and the World Bank be strengthened?
The AfDB, the ECA and the AU are the pillars of African integration and must work together for the benefit of African countries. They already coordinate their activities and they need to work to build a shared vision that will foster African integration. This is not an option for these institutions, but something they must do!
Like all other institutions that finance development in Africa, the World Bank and the AfDB should pool their resources to benefit African countries, and should aim for coordination and aid effectiveness, in the spirit of the 2005 Paris declaration.
You consider the private sector to be of particular importance. With investment funds springing up across the world, what is the best way to make projects for Africa more coherent?
The private sector is the number one tool for growth, job creation and development. The AfDB has to act as an advisor to states, helping them to establish a regulatory framework and measures with the potential to improve conditions for investment. Without a dynamic and significant internal private sector, there can be no development.
That is why we need to help countries to promote domestic savings, and help banks to finance SMEs and SMIs. At the same time, the AfDB needs to help Africa to tap into international capital and mobilise resources. It will need to support banks, to establish agreements with countries or institutions that wish to invest in Africa and issue guarantees; all in order to create conditions that will entice investors to make use of Africa’s vast resources. This is especially crucial for low-income countries where promoters of the private sector typically invest very little, apart from into the mining and petroleum sectors.
Considering all of this, what are the reasons behind you running?
My candidature has the support of the President of Chad, HE Idriss Déby Itno, whose stature and influence in Africa and internationally are well-known and respected. I am also running on behalf of Central Africa, a region that has never occupied this position, and that would contribute to African unity and development. They chose the person who they believe can best meet the requirements to carry out this task with dignity and purpose. We have received encouragement from leading figures and friendly countries that truly believe that I am the best person for this challenge.
Right now, Africa is the most dynamic continent and wishes to present itself as the continent of the 21st Century. More and more, Africa will have its say. As Africa’s leading institution for financing development, the AfDB needs a leader that can foster this dynamism in order to fully carry out its role.
I have acquired all of this through my experience, which I believe is unmatched within the AfDB. From Operations to the post of Vice-President for Corporate Services via the post of Secretary General, I have experience of the whole institution. I can claim better than anyone to know exactly how the AfDB machine runs.
This is complemented by my experience in the Chadian government as the Minister for Planning, the Economy and International Cooperation, and then as the Secretary-General to the President – a post that provides a great understanding of the development of a country – and lastly my current post as Chad’s Minister for Finance and Budget. With all of this, I have had the perfect preparation for hitting the ground running, and becoming immediately effective at the head of the AfDB.
I must also add a major personal element. Since I was a student, I have always had a passion for the success and development of Africa. I have always acted on this basis, throughout my career. To serve Africa is my calling – a sacred mission that I am compelled to carry out.
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