Tunisia’s former Finance Minister, Jaloul Ayed, asserts that it is his banking experience which allowed him to gain a clear understanding of Africa’s full potential. He calls for an AfDB closer to its markets. Interview with Joan Tilouine.
If appointed, what would be your first action as president?
I would request a general assessment of the Bank, with particular emphasis on human resources. An institution depends above all on the qualities of its staff. I will meet with key leaders and executives and listen to their motivations and needs. It is also important to assess efficiency and risk management.
Why would you make a good president?
My passion for Africa and experience. When I led the second-largest Moroccan banking group, I managed the acquisition of Bank of Africa and created subsidiaries in more than 20 African countries. My profile stands out from others. I’m not a pure product of the administration, even if I was finance minister after the 2011 revolution in Tunisia. I have a wealth of experience in the private sector and international finance.
What needs to be changed in the way the AfDB operates for it to help Africa really take off?
I have a vision in order for us to seize the extraordinary transformation of the continent. I think the AfDB is at the heart of this change and can play an even greater role. I would like the AfDB to be more proactive and pro-business. I want us to seek out opportunities and not just wait for opportunities to come to us. Under my leadership, the AfDB would be more involved in business circuits while retaining its original vocation as a development bank.
Can you give a concrete example of something AfDB does that other
development banks do not?
It is a development bank and as such has played a crucial role in infrastructure. There are two major development banks involved in Africa: the AfDB and the World Bank. The pan-African institution plays a crucial role in providing technical assistance and intervenes to help and assist member states in developing good strategies and reforms for the implementation of sustainable
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?
I agree with this strategy. I do not intend to turn it upside down but meet the Bank’s objectives including operational objectives. I will add a few small touches that I consider important, firstly, with regard to the reform of the financial system, because only a strong financial system can support a strong economy. We also need to conduct studies in the field of culture. I would like to put culture at the heart of development because I am convinced that it has a positive impact.
The decentralisation strategy has been criticised for being expensive and inefficient. Do you intend to continue it?
I am for efficient decentralisation along with empowerment. I’m not very focused on representative offices because I am not convinced of their efficiency. In contrast, proximity seems most efficient. Proximity is crucial in order to be more proactive and pro-business. But it has a cost; and it must be studied. I would start with where there is the greatest need, that is to say, in fragile countries that we need to help.