Dr Samura Kamara is Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation. He is also a candidate for the presidency of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He recently discussed his vision for both Africa and the Bank with Stephen Williams.
As a former Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank, and now in his current capacity as Foreign Minister, Dr Kamara has played a major role in the revitalisation of both Sierra Leone’s domestic economy and its commercial relations with the region, continent and beyond. He led his country back from civil war and through the recent Ebola crisis – both significant challenges requiring engaged and sophisticated international coordination.
“I believe the Presidency demands someone who not only has a deep understanding of the complexities of finance and economics, but also will be a powerful voice for the needs of all Africans on the international stage,” Dr Kamara said. “Through his achievements, President Kaberuka showed us how the AfDB’s voice can be used to effect positive change, and I believe I will bring a similar commitment of intellect, passion and duty to the job.”
Dr Samura Kamara’s passion for development is clear from the moment he begins to describe his career: “Since I finished university, my life has been spent dealing with development issues. My thesis was on the monetary unification of West Africa. We have not succeeded yet, but I believe that one way to push forward African development is through monetary integration.”
Dr Kamara has a wealth of experience in various government positions, including as Central Bank Governor, alternate executive director for Africa at the IMF and Minister of Finance and Economic Development before becoming his country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. As Minister of Finance, he chaired the African Caucus constituency meetings two years in a row and guided negotiations that resulted in Africa getting a third chair on the World Bank Executive Board and a Second Alternate Chair in the IMF Executive.
Throughout his 35-year career, Dr Kamara has collaborated and negotiated with global leaders to solve some of Sierra Leone’s and Africa’s biggest development and resource mobilisation challenges and is among the most experienced candidates to lead the African Development Bank.
When it comes to his vision for the Bank, Dr Kamara believes it must continue to focus on the key pillars set forth in the ‘Ten Year Strategy’ advanced by current AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, while decentralising and bolstering the institution’s leadership role on the continent. He recently wrote:
“There are four key areas within [the Ten Year Strategy] where I believe the Bank should focus its efforts: fighting inequality, exclusion and insecurity; deepening infrastructure development and African integration; promoting private sector development and economic diversification; and promoting green growth and sustaining livelihoods.
“Through decentralisation, the Bank is able to work with its partners to produce higher quality projects with better project design and supervision that can be implemented in a much shorter time frame. Decentralisation also brings about a number of benefits for the individual regions as it allows for greater capacity building and provides many more opportunities in field offices.”
As both a former board member and client of the Bank, Dr Kamara has the unique perspective of both serving the interests of the Bank’s shareholders and mobilising its resources for nations emerging from conflict. This has given him both a unique grasp on the Bank’s mechanisms and procedures, and – as the key architect of Sierra Leone’s historic and unparalleled economic recovery – a first-hand understanding of how it can help solve many of the problems African nations face today. He led the development of his nation’s interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (I-PRSP), which helped Sierra Leone recover from the brink of post-war economic catastrophe, and subsequent initiatives focusing on the “software” of post-conflict development, including basic education and healthcare facilities, accountable economic and political governance, and the creation of new social safety nets.
Most recently, Dr Kamara helped devise and complete Sierra Leone’s latest post-war recovery plan, the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, in 2013. In this instance Kamara focused on the “hardware” of economic development, intensifying work on the construction of roads and energy facilities and creating incentives for foreign direct investment in mining, fishing, agribusiness and real estate development, paving the way for the next decade of growth.
Kamara views the biggest challenge to attracting inward investment to be balancing fiscal policy incentives with the need to generate revenues from taxation.
Similarly, Kamara thinks that for the AfDB to address emerging challenges in Africa, additional resources must be mobilised within and outside the continent. He also cautions that a balance needs to be found: “To be effective, the AfDB needs to maintain a culture that is disciplined and respects the strict risk-management processes required of a major financial institution.
“Yet, at the same time we need to create a dynamic, open environment that gives the AfDB’s staff the freedom to innovate, adapt and develop new ideas to address chronic and emerging challenges in Africa.”
In this regard, Kamara believes that the AfDB president can make a difference through leadership. If elected to this role, he would focus on creating unity among the Bank’s various constituencies and developing a culture within the Bank that both applies financial best practices and encourages new and creative initiatives.
“I have seen the Bank’s ability to make a profound difference in the lives of people in Sierra Leone and across the continent. I believe it must continue to play a central role in advancing the common objectives of the African people.”