Mthuli Ncube eyes AfDB presidency

Mthuli Ncube eyes AfDB presidency
Published: 04 June 2014
African Development Bank chief economist and vice-president, Professor Mthuli Ncube and founder of Barbican Holdings, is making a bid for the presidency of the continental financial institution. If he lands it, he would take over from Donald Kaberuka whose second five-year term expires next May. Prof Ncube, a native Zimbabwean and naturalised South African, is lobbying South Africa's finance minister and other officials for the country to nominate him for the post.

Born in Bulawayo in 1964, Prof Ncube who holds a doctorate in finance from Cambridge University and has taught at the London School of Economics is expected to face stiff competition from six other candidates.

Among those said to be interested in replacing Kaberuka are Nigeria's Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina and Ethiopia's Finance Minister Ato Sufian Ahmed.

Nkosana Moyo, AfDB's former chief operating officer and former Zimbabwe Industry and Commerce minister, said Prof Ncube could face an uphill battle convincing South Africa to back him against candidates whose nations don't already hold a top post on the continent.

"South Africa is quite interested in creating more African solidarity as opposed to sowing divisions," Moyo said.

"They must really think it through carefully before support is given to a southern African candidate."

Prof Ncube, who has been the pan-continental lender's chief economist since 2010, said if he secures the presidency, he would focus on policies to spread the benefits of Africa's rapid economic growth to the majority of its billion citizens who remain poor.

He also said his tenure could support  South African President Jacob Zuma's ambition to play a larger role in African diplomacy.

"I view it as a way to leverage South Africa's strength to help the rest of Africa, but of course South Africa benefits in the process," Prof Ncube said in an interview.

The bank's presidency is a high-profile position atop one of Africa's few home-grown multilateral institutions, he said.

A spokeswoman in South Africa's finance ministry on Monday told Wall Street Journal that the government will discuss succession at the bank with its neighbours in Sadc.

If South Africa agrees to nominate Prof Ncube and convinces enough powerful African nations to back him, he would become its first president from southern Africa since the 1980s.

But as one of the continent's richest countries, South Africa could face a backlash from other powerful African nations eager to secure the plumb post for themselves, said Catherine Grant, head of economic diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

That is what happened in 2012 when Zuma campaigned to install his ex-wife in the African Union's top job.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a popular former foreign minister, won the support of enough countries to assume a four-year term as head of the bloc's executive, but not before offending the leaders of Rwanda, Nigeria and other nations who said South Africa shouldn't have breached a long-standing agreement to keep the coveted post with a less influential African nation.

"South Africa has broken the gentleman's agreement of the big players not going for these leadership roles," Grant said.

Founded 50 years ago, the African Development Bank invests about $8 billion annually in projects to foster economic growth and alleviate poverty across the continent.

It collaborates and competes with international organisations like the World Bank and private-equity firms taking a new look at Africa and its nascent consumer  class.

It also is embracing new partnerships. Last month China said it would invest $2 billion through the bank, the first time Beijing will route some of the nearly $30 billion it has invested in Africa through a multilateral institution.

"We saw an opportunity to innovate," said Prof Ncube, who earned a PhD in financial economics from Cambridge University and was dean of the business school at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand before joining the bank in 2010.

"We're looking for new types of funding that can be brought to bear on Africa's problems," he said.

Prof Ncube has published widely in the area of finance and economics, and some of his papers have won awards.

Some of the papers have been published in international journals such as the Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Banking and Finance, Mathematical Finance, Applied Financial Economics and Journal of African Economies.

He has also published 4 books, namely: Mathematical Finance; South African Dictionary of Finance; Financial Systems  and Monetary Policy in Africa; and Development Dynamics: Theories and Lessons from Zimbabwe; and a book manuscript on finance and investments in South Africa.

Prof Ncube is the chairperson of the Board of the African Economic Research Consortium, a network that develops economists in Africa, with which he has been associated for the last 20 years, chairperson of the Global Agenda Council on "Poverty and Economic Development" (World Economic Forum). He is also a governor of the African Capacity Building Foundation.

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