With plenty of experience working at the AfDB, Zimbabwe’s Thomas Sakala believes he is well suited to keep the Bank’s programmes and strategies on the right track. Interview by Hichem Ben Yaïche.
If appointed, what would be your first action as president?
I would ensure that every member of staff understands my vision and what I expect in order to promote the transformation of the Bank and the continent. Building a winning team is paramount. This might require some organisational fine-tuning and communication to both internal and external stakeholders. I will meet senior management and Board members to share my vision and get their views.
Why would you make a good president?
Firstly, my long experience at the Bank working in a number of different key areas and reforms that have placed the Bank where it is today. Secondly, my extensive knowledge of African countries, economies and leaders. Thirdly, my strong belief that Africa has the capacity to do more for itself. Fourthly, my familiarity with the international development landscape. These attributes give me the right profile to build on Kaberuka’s successes. Above all, I will ensure a smooth transition whilst quickly scaling up on existing momentum.
What needs to be changed in the way the AfDB operates for it to help Africa really take off?
First and foremost, it is the responsibility of each country to chart and implement its own development path. The Bank must build trust and provide advice. The Bank must be alert to what is working and not, and be prepared to change long-held views. The Bank must be ready to embrace a new role as the bridge between old development banks and the emerging players such the BRICS. To underpin this, the Bank must be passionate, innovative and risk-taking.
Can you give a concrete example of something AfDB does that other
development banks do not?
I’ll give you three quick examples: 1) timely and accelerated responses during the 2008/09 financial crisis; 2) partnerships with the AU on the Sudan/South Sudan question; 3) setting up the Africa 50 Fund in response to the infrastructure financing gap.
The Bank’s strategy for 2013–2022 has been adopted. In this context, how can the new president pursue his or her own ideas and priorities?
The strategy charts a credible roadmap for the Bank in its quest to be at the centre of Africa’s transformation agenda and I was part of the team that crafted it. The strategy foresaw the need for periodic reviews, the first of which will likely take place in 2016. This will be an appropriate time to strengthen alignment with the AU Agenda 2063 and the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. There will also be a need to reflect on lessons from the Ebola epidemic.
However, I still expect that infrastructure, regional integration and private sector development will continue to be the core operational priority areas, whilst gender equality, fragility and food security will remain areas of special attention.
The decentralisation strategy has been criticised for being expensive and inefficient. Do you intend to continue it?
Decentralisation is costly but necessary. The challenge is always to strive for a cost effective and efficient balance. I am also aware that we have failed in adequately reporting and measuring our successes and systematically building on them. A comprehensive review of the programme started under my watch. I will build on this work and introduce additional ideas I might have.