For more than six years, Birama Sidibe has served as the vice president of operations at the Islamic Development Bank, the leading development finance institution for Islamic countries and communities.
The position allowed him to oversee the bank’s projects in over 50 countries, as well as its various partnerships with different entities, including other multilateral development banks, across a number of sectors.
This year, however, he is looking to make a comeback at the African Development Bank, the institution he worked at for 23 years in different capacities. And among his priorities is to modernize and adapt the bank’s business model to the continent’s emerging requirements.
It’s unclear how he plans to do that, but the idea is to ensure the bank’s relevance amid the emergence of other players like China, which has become a big source of funding for many African countries, including Mali, Sidibe’s home country. In February, the Malian government reportedly signed $11 billion worth of agreements with China, mostly for infrastructure projects, including two railway projects linking its capital city, Bamako, to that of Guinea’s and Senegal’s.
And it could also be ensuring the bank’s ability to engage in partnerships with these different players. At IsDB, Sidibe has engaged extensively with other development finance institutions and has experience in promoting south-south and triangular cooperation.
Boosting the private sector, building public institutions
At IsDB, Sidibe has also embarked on a number of initiatives engaging and supporting the private sector, which he deems as significant players in helping African countries meet their needs, including in the area of infrastructure as well as job creation.
See more stories on electing AfDB’s next president:
That’s why in his vision, he prioritizes creating financial, economic and legal incentives aimed at stimulating private sector participation in the continent’s development. And he places emphasis on small and medium enterprises as well as self-employed sectors “due to their great potential for inclusiveness and job creation.”
Sidibe notes that the idea is also meant to get the private sector involved in the continent’s integration, which is also part of the bank’s 10-year strategy.
The IsDB official also prioritizes building national institutions in his vision for the bank, and notes “more” assistance will be provided in this area for African countries to realize “competent and modern public administrations.”
“Strong institutions, in fact, guarantee the delivery of public service, even in times of crisis and ultimately contribute to peace and security,” he said.
This includes providing member countries “high added value advice” so they’d be able to raise public and private resources to stimulate investment.
The Malian candidate also proposes to prioritize lending in areas where there’s high potential for the bank to promote social and economic inclusion.
That means allocating its concessional resources to initiatives that would promote rural employment, target women and youth, and widen people’s access to financial and nonfinancial services. The bank would also “refine” its services to fragile states and regions, and build resilience in “disadvantaged” urban and rural areas.
In his 1-2-3 agenda for the bank, one of his priority projects across the continent is a Sahel Desert Zone program, which he describes as a development and economic revival corridor that would promote inclusion and growth in the region, which he envisions will extend from Mauritania’s capital of Nouakchott to Somalia’s Mogadishu.
In addition, if elected, his goal is to provide equal representation of men and women in professional and decision-making positions at the bank by the end of his term.
Ensuring financial sustainability
Sidibe notes he will insist on the bank’s “prudent use” of its lending capacity, and aims to monitor its expenditure to ensure balance between its spending and revenue.
His goal is to ensure long-term financial sustainability.
This will prove to be a challenge for the Malian contender as he comes from an institution that does not borrow from international markets, and that does not rely on nonregional member countries for its resources.
No doubt his “reputation as an innovator and a reformer with tangible results” will be put to the test.
Could Sidibe’s wealth of experience in different development finance institutions encourage the bank’s members to elect him to the presidency?
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
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