WB/IMF meetings conclude, AfDB President looks to his future

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An historic week wrapped up in Washington, DC with the adoption of an agenda to exterminate extreme poverty around the world by 2030. It was also the last time Donald Kaberuka would attend the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Annual Spring Meetings as President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB).

“Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, which assumed that a large part of the financing would be from outside, this time around, the African position is totally from the opposite end,” Kaberuka said during his final meeting of the joint WB Group/IMF Development Committee, where the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in attendance for the first time in history. “We have a responsibility to fund our own development,” Kaberuka said. “That requires good policies; it requires capacity.”

Throughout the week-long WB/IMF meetings, Kaberuka delivered targeted messages to heads of multilateral development banks, political leaders and other financial and economic power players from around the world on how the AfDB is poised to help. During presentations and keynote addresses at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Brookings Institute, The National Press Club and more, he talked about the importance of stemming illicit flows, creating a single market system for the continent and helping Africa’s 54 countries mobilize internal resources. 

Kaberuka’s years of dedicated service to help improve the lives of Africans across the continent were not lost the participants of the semi-annual meetings. At the conclusion of the Development Committee Meeting, Kaberuka received a standing ovation from participants for his 10 years of service to the AfDB.

It was a week of numerous accolades and recognition for Kaberuka. He was given AllAfrica’s “Champion Award” and World Bank Group President Jim Kim hosted a special reception in his honour. On Friday evening, Kaberuka received the “Creating Opportunities for Development in Africa Leadership Award” from Africare. The ceremony, held at the US Chamber of Commerce, was attended by leaders in the world of development, Ministers of Finance, and Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who delivered a message of tribute.

“Mr. Donald Kaberuka stands out in his leadership. A leadership that motivates; one that had a calling in the vision that he established for the transformation of the African continent,” Johnson Sirleaf said. When the Ebola outbreak hit, she said Kaberuka called her and said, “I’m coming.” At a time when Johnson Sirleaf said others were too afraid, “he came.”

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also took the stage and praised Kaberuka for promoting gender equality and inclusion and creating gender sensitive policies across Africa. “I am very grateful to him for this,” she said. “One of Donald’s most applauded achievements to date is the physical repositioning of the Bank, taking it back to Abidjan, its original home base. Today, we toast this Son of Africa for a stellar performance over the last 10 years at the helm of this great regional institution,” she said.

Of his term in office, Kaberuka said, “What I did was to do my job and I think this recognition is not for me alone. It is for the thousands of staff who over the years worked to build up this first-class African institution for which you can be proud.” Some of those staff members were present, some were not and Kaberuka said some had even passed away. He then asked the crowd for a moment of silence in honour of Amir Zahir. He was a young Sudanese man in charge of the Human Resources Department who died just last week while heading to a work meeting.

With his time at the AfDB nearly behind him, Kaberuka is looking toward the future. “For those of you who are wondering what I will be doing next, they say that retirement is the world’s longest coffee break,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will be, but once it is over I hope you will join me in whatever I do,” he said. “Thank you for the honour and thank you for our friendship.”