AfDB diary: Kaberuka’s long lap of honour

AfDB diary: Kaberuka’s long lap of honour

Donald Kaberuka may be on his final lap as president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), but his programme appears no less busy for that. 

Delegates to this year’s AfDB annual meeting are growing used to the sight of the outgoing president and his entourage as he whizzes from meeting to meeting, greeting old friends and imparting wisdom from his 10 years at the helm. 

Kaberuka was glimpsed on Monday spending 10 minutes in the company of young entrepreneurs before being whisked off to his next meeting. 

He later made a brief appearance at a panel on dismantling Africa’s borders before re-emerging as the star of his own crowded press conference in the media centre, where he answered questions on Burundi, Zimbabwe and the economies of East Africa.

Evening brought yet another panel discussion – a forum featuring Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discussing her country’s defeat of Ebola. And these were just the public appearances caught by your correspondent at Abidjan’s vast Sofitel Hotel complex. 

If Kaberuka has been ubiquitous at the conference, it appears to be a reflection of the esteem and demand in which he is held by his colleagues and the wider development community. 

A ‘presidential summit’ on Tuesday morning turned into an impromptu tribute to the man, with the leaders of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique and others contributing to the cascades of applause heading Kaberuka’s way.

“Your legacy is that of making the AfDB a true and trusted voice for Africa,” said Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Meanwhile President Johnson Sirleaf commented that under Kaberuka, “The AfDB has stood the test of time and earned its reputation as Africa’s premier finance institution.”

If that wasn’t enough to undermine any remaining modesty, a lavish video tribute featuring Desmond Tutu and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was broadcast to the assembled masses.

The general consensus: Kaberuka will be much-missed, even if the eight candidates gearing up to take his place feature an impressive range of experiences.

For his part, Kaberuka remained humble, quipping that he hoped the next president would surpass the 78% who voted for him. Much to the relief of the guests, he also promised that he will not disappear from the scene altogether when his term finally comes to an end. 

“It’s a complex and merciless job but very rewarding…count me in as a foot soldier for the economic development of Africa,” he told the audience. 

Foot soldier or not, after tramping around the Sofitel for a week as he has been, anyone would want to put their feet up. 

David Thomas


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Written by David Thomas

David Thomas is the Editor of African Business Magazine. He has also been published in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and South Africa's Cape Times.

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