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Established in 1964 with a mandate to reduce poverty and promote economic and social development in Africa, the African Development Bank is becoming a major financier for development on the continent. Long considered a small player, AfDB is making strides toward fully joining the ranks of its sister institutions under increasing scrutiny from civil society.
Despite its growing profile, however, the AfDB’s standards and capacity to implement them remain behind similar institutions when it comes to social and environmental responsibility. It is making strides with its new disclosure policy and the development of a modern safeguards system. At the same time, with increasing demand from CSOs for participation and accountability, the AfDB is slowly becoming more responsive to the public it is meant to serve. However, even as the Bank becomes more open, its appetite for risky projects continues unabated, particularly within the infrastructure, energy and agriculture sectors.
BIC is a member of the CSO Coalition on the AfDB, an African-led network of civil society organizations that advocates for greater accountability, transparency and sustainability in the operation of the AfDB and the projects that it finances. Find out more: www.coalitionafdb.org
The AfDB President is elected by the institution’s Board of Governors for a five year term. Donald Kaberuka, a former Rwandan Finance Minister, has been President of the African Development Bank since 2005.
Board of Directors
AfDB’s 79 member governments are represented on its Board of Directors, which consists of 20 Executive Directors. These 20 representatives oversee the day-to-day operations of the Bank and ultimately approve all projects, policies and strategies of the institution. The EDs are supposed to represent their member countries, both governments and citizens.
The AfDB is owned and overseen by these 79 member governments, and it depends on money contributed by these shareholders to cover its operating costs and to provide its loans and grants. Its 54 African members have 13 seats on the Board and roughly 60 percent of its voting share, while non-African governments have 7 seats and 40 percent voting power. The Bank’s largest shareholder is Nigeria, with nearly 9% of the vote, followed by Japan and the United States, with around 6% each.
Board of Governors
The Board of Governors meets annually and is responsible for the admission of new members, decisions on increases to the Bank’s capital, and the election of the AfDB President. Regional member countries control 60% of the voting power on the Board, while non-regional members control the remaining 40%.
The Bank is divided into five vice presidencies: one is responsible for regional and country programs and policies; another for sector operations; one for finance; one for corporate services; and the newest vice presidency, for infrastructure, private sector and regional integration.
Because its lending to low-income countries is limited to funds raised from donor governments, most lending goes to middle-income countries, particularly North Africa, and to the private sector. In 2011, the AfDB’s lending window for middle income countries and the private sector accounted for 64.5% – the largest share of approvals. In contrast, the African Development Fund’s (ADF), which supports low-income countries, accounted for 32.0 percent.
Since 1967 when the Bank first began lending, North Africa has received approximately one-third of the Bank’s portfolio, a trend that continues today with Morocco and Tunisia being the largest borrowers. West Africa has received 20% of all loans, with Nigeria the largest recipient. East (18%), Southern (15%) and Central (2.3%) Africa are the next largest recipients of AfDB finance, with Ethiopia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo representing the top recipients from the respective subregions.
According to the Bank’s annual report, AfDB loans and grants during 2011 were allocated to each sector as follows:
- Infrastructure – 38.1 %
- Multisector – 20.7 %
- Finance – 19.4 %
- Social – 10.9 %
- Industry, Mining and Quarrying – 7.1 %
- Agriculture and Rural Development – 3.5 %
- Environment – 0.2 %
Find more details on the Bank’s lending in the AfDB’s 2011 Annual Report.
In 2012, the African Development Bank began revising its safeguard policies for the first time. Called the Integrated Safeguards System (ISS), this set of proposed policies and procedures is designed to ensure the protection of local populations, vulnerable groups and the environment against the negative repercussions of projects financed by AfDB on the continent. The draft ISS document is available on the AfDB website.
The safeguards review represented an important opportunity to ensure that AfDB’s policies and procedures are of the highest international standards. BIC and its partners in the Coalition have worked with the Bank to ensure a robust consultation process that maximizes civil society participation.
Information Disclosure Policy
In 2011, the African Development Bank approved a new Disclosure and Access to Information Policy, which regulates the procedures and types of information disclosed to the public. This new policy represents an important shift at the institution, since it requires the AfDB to publicly disclose all documents in the absence of a compelling reason for confidentiality.
BIC was engaged in the development of the new policy, through its affiliation with the Coalition on the AfDB. Along with the Global Transparency Initiative, these organizations were successful in lobbying the institution to conduct a consultation process that would be sufficiently broad and inclusive of CSOs, who would ultimately benefit from the new policy and procedures.
Apart from providing input into and taking part in the face-to-face consultations, the Coalition developed collectively and submitted an extensive set of comments and recommendations on the policy draft, many of which were incorporated into the final policy.
While the text of the AfDB’s information disclosure policy is more or less in line with that of other multilateral development banks, implementation has historically proven problematic.
Find out more about the new DAI Policy here (AfDB website)
Accountability at the AfDB
The African Development Bank approved the creation of an Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) in 2004, which is similar to citizen complaint/accountability mechanisms found at other IFIs, such as the World Bank’s Inspection Panel.
Find out more about the AfDB Independent Review Mechanism (AfDB website)
Public Information Center (PIC)
AfDB’s PIC is responsible for disseminating Bank information and documents and processes all external requests. The preferred channel for processing requests is an online form, but staff handling requests at the DAI unit and the Public Information Center (PIC) can accept other types of written requests, such as email, mail, or fax. If requesters do not have proper access to the internet, relevant staff can send them the request form by fax (or mail) and have it completed and returned with the necessary information.
Generally, requests need to be submitted to AfDB in English or French, but the Bank may accept requests made in another official language of a regional member country.
You can visit the AfDB’s Disclosure and Access to Information website for more information.
AfDB project information available to the public:
- Country Pages – are a good place to start when seeking information about AfDB activities. Each African member country has its own page, which covers its economic outlook, project portfolio and contacts for field offices.
- Project Appraisal Reports – an expanded project description publicly available after Board approval of a project. The document may be redacted to omit information deemed confidential by the borrower. This information is not currently made available for private sector operations.
- Environmental and Social Impact Assessments – are to be made publicly available to local populations before the Bank conducts a formal appraisal of a project requiring an impact assessment. The full ESIA is rarely disclosed on the website, but can be requested through AfDB’s information portal.
- Environmental and Social Impact Summaries – summaries of environmental issues and mitigation measures necessary for a project, prepared by Bank staff and disclosed at least 120 days prior to project approval.
- Country Strategy Papers – set out a lending and aid strategy to guide engagement in borrowing countries. These papers provide an indicative list of projects that AfDB expects to finance over a 3 year period. AfDB is increasingly disclosing these documents in draft form through the website for public input, prior to approval.
The African Development Bank’s website is the primary resource for accessing information about the institution, and most information on the AfDB website is available in both French and English. However, despite recent improvements, the website remains difficult to use, and much of the information it contains is incomplete or outdated. The condition of the website constitutes a major obstacle to the AfDB’s fulfillment of its obligations under its Information Disclosure Policy.
The AfDB’s country offices may be the most direct route through which to obtain current information about the AfDB’s operations in your country. See the latest list of AfDB field offices to see whether your country has an office.
The African Development Bank annual meetings are held in May or early June each year. The meetings may be a venue at which civil society organizations can exert influence on Bank management and policies. The AfDB’s 2013 Annual Meetings are scheduled to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, May 27 – 31. For more information, see the AfDB’s Annual Meetings page.
- AfDB Field Offices and Resident Representatives (AfDB website)