Independent review clears AfDB president of wrongdoing

Akinwumi Adesina (right), president at the Africa Development Bank. Photo by: Graham Carlow / DFID / CC BY

NAIROBI — An independent review cleared African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina of ethical wrongdoing Tuesday.

This move ends a seven-month controversy at AfDB, which is Africa’s largest multilateral bank, following whistleblower allegations that Adesina engaged in corrupt acts, including awarding contracts to acquittances and appointing relatives to strategic positions.

It also clears the way for Adesina’s election to a second five-year term as the bank’s president at the end of August — a position for which he is running unopposed.

In depth for Pro subscribers: What does the Adesina affair mean for AfDB?

Old tensions over power are heating up at the African Development Bank as it heads toward an election.

In January, a group of unnamed whistleblowers leveled 16 claims against Adesina to the bank’s internal auditing body. The bank’s ethics committee in March called these allegations "frivolous and without merit,” and Adesina was cleared of wrongdoing in May by the bank’s own internal review.

But this internal investigation did not suffice for some. In May, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to the bank’s board, questioning the integrity of the internal probe, calling for an independent investigation into the allegations. The U.S. is the bank’s second-largest shareholder, following Nigeria.

These calls for a new investigation were criticized by some current and previous heads of state of African nations, who questioned the role that the U.S. should play in the bank’s governance.

“If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa,” wrote former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in a letter to African leaders.

While the bank’s governors said they stood by the findings of AfDB’s initial review, a compromise was reached and an independent review was launched.

The three-member independent review panel, set up by the bureau of governors of the bank, included Mary Robinson, Ireland’s former president; Justice Hassan Jallow, former minister of justice in Gambia; and Leonard McCarthy, former vice president of the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency.

The independent review found that it agreed with the bank’s ethics committee that the allegations against Adesina were "properly considered and dismissed.”

About the author

  • Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is Devex's East Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi. She is a reporter and producer, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation magazine, among others. Sara holds a master's degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow.