Woman Candidate for AfDB Boss Says Africa Must Retain Wealth

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Cristina Duarte
Cristina Duarte, Cape Verde Finance Minister. Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Cristina Duarte, the finance minister from Cape Verde who is the first woman to stand for the presidency of the African Development Bank, said the lender should encourage wealth generated in Africa to stay on the continent.

Duarte, 52, who has managed the West African island nation’s economy since 2006, is one of eight contenders to succeed Donald Kaberuka when he steps down at the end of his second five-year term in August.

“The main challenge in Africa, the first challenge to African policymakers, is to retain the wealth that Africa loses every year,” she said by phone from the capital, Praia. She cited a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa report which estimated illicit flows of money from Africa could be as much as $50 billion a year.

The AfDB’s governors, who include finance ministers and central bank leaders from across the continent, will choose Kaberuka’s successor on May 28 during the bank’s annual meetings in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital of Abidjan.

Nigeria is backing its agriculture minister, Akinwumi Adesina, to head the bank, which lends to African governments and companies working on infrastructure projects and other programs. South Africa is supporting the candidacy of Thomas Sakala, a Zimbabwean national who has worked at the AfDB for 31 years.

One way African policymakers can attempt to create and retain more wealth at home would be to enact laws that promote value-added industries, Duarte said.

“To increase Africa’s local value components within global value chains we need to have an empowered African private sector,” she said. “To empower the African private sector, we need financial systems that are robust.”

Women’s Role

Cape Verde, an archipelago of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa, achieved an average per-capita economic growth rate of 7.1 percent between 2005 and 2008, according to the World Bank. Tourism is the main driver of the economy.

The exclusion of women from sections of African economies must end, the minister said.

“There are some countries in Africa today that still deny property rights to women,” she said. “If you deny property rights you deny access to financing, if you deny access to financing you deny economic opportunities.” Women’s empowerment “is not only a human right, but it is also an economic issue for Africa today, and for a structural transformation,” she said.

Adesina has said he aims to increase private sector lending to curb widening inequality on the continent, while Sakala has said governments must raise more money domestically for infrastructure projects to help spur economic growth.

Other candidates for the top post are Ethiopian Finance Minister Sufian Ahmed; Chadian Finance Minister Kordje Bedoumra; Jaloul Ayed, a former finance minister in Tunisia; Mali’s Birama Boubacar Sidibe, a vice president of the Islamic Development Bank; and Sierra Leone’s Foreign Minister Samura Kamara.

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