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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 joining the ranks of its sister institutions under increasing scrutiny from civil society.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is similar to the World Bank in that it lends money and gives grants to African governments and invests in private companies operating in Africa. The AfDB is increasingly taking a leadership role in initiatives to promote infrastructure financing and regional integration in Africa.
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.
The African Development Bank’s headquarters are located in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in the near future, though they were temporarily relocated to Tunisia between 2003-2014. The AfDB has undertaken an ambitious decentralization strategy, which has led to establishment of country offices throughout Africa. Still, most decisions are made at the AfDB headquarters.
The AfDB President is elected by the institution’s Board of Governors for a five year term. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina is the 8th elected President of the African Development Bank Group. He was elected to the position on May 28, 2015 and took office at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on September 1, 2015.
Board of Directors
AfDB’s 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 member governments, and it depends on money contributed by these shareholders to cover its operating costs and to provide its loans and grants. Its 53 African members have roughly 60 percent of its voting share, while its 26 non-African member governments have 40 percent voting power. The Bank’s largest shareholder is Nigeria, with 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.
The AfDB’s loans, grants, technical assistance and equity investments support projects for agriculture, health, education, water, power, transport, finance and other sectors. The AfDB also provides loans toward general budget support for governments, conditioned on the implementation of policy changes, such as legal reform or economic restructuring. These “policy-based loans” are often developed and co-financed with the World Bank, the IMF and other donors.
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.
According to the Bank’s annual report, AfDB loans and grants during 2014 were allocated to each sector as follows:
- Infrastructure – 55.2 %
- Multisector – 5.94 %
- Finance – 17.93 %
- Social – 8.15 %
- Industry, Mining and Quarrying – .87 %
- Agriculture and Rural Development – 10.85 %
- Environment – 0.74 %
Find more details on the Bank’s lending in the AfDB’s 2014 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 Integrated Safeguards System Policy adopted by the AfDB in December 2013 can be found here.
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, organizations were successful in lobbying the institution to conduct a consultation process that would be sufficiently broad and inclusive of CSOs. Apart from providing input into and taking part in the face-to-face consultations, the Coalition collectively developed and submitted an extensive set of comments and recommendations on the policy draft, many of which were incorporated into the final policy.
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)
This page provides information on AfDB documents available to the public, as well as tips on how to obtain information from the AfDB.
For BIC’s full guide, check out EXAMINING THE AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK: A primer for NGOs.
Téléchargez le guide en français: Comprendre la Banque africaine de développement: Guide d’introduction pour les ONG.
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 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. For more information, see the AfDB’s Annual Meetings page.