A bankrupt post-colonial elite fixated on the two Cs – Corruption and Conspicuous Consumption – failed to embark on the continuous capitalisation of the African Development Bank (AfDB). President Shehu Shagari, an unlikely nationalist, sensibly expressed his foreboding that Africans should own the African Development Bank in 1981. Now, the chickens have come home to roost. Allowing the Western world to hold significant shares in the bank was a strategic blunder and a surrender of the vital lever of economic development. The mistake was complete when the board of AfDB, in its resolution, overruled Shagari in 1983.
Just as Cassius told Brutus in Julius Ceasar: “Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” People are masters of their fate and in charge of their destinies. A people can succumb to someone else’s rule, or they can make their own choices. The decision to allow Western nations into an African Development finance institution was our choice. That myopic choice is behind the travails of Adesina, as it is unwrapped, today.
There is no reason why Africa cannot put together its own development finance institutions with indigenous capital. The ideological worldview represented by the current American government is at variance with Africa’s developmental needs, which is to stop the framework of primary production. Contrast this with Brazil. The Brazilians, in the same period and without foreign equity, have built the Brazilian Bank for Social and Economic Development (BNDES) into an awesome behemoth. BNDES is one of the biggest development finance institutions on earth. As The Economist observed, BNDES can make loans with tenor of up to fifty years! The current imbroligio has very little to do with Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, who is actually a peripheral figure; an extra in someone else’s movie. The French agronomist, Renée Dumont warned about the defective, self-destructive policies of the post-colonial elite in his seminal classic, False Starts in Africa, published in 1962. Our tragedy is not a tragedy by happenstance, it is a tragedy foretold.
We are good at blaming other people, instead of thinking and having thorough reflections on what is wrong with the African man. African leaders must assemble their thinkers and think! Moïse Kapend Tshombe died in 1964. No one has access to his money in the Swiss vaults till today. The money stolen by African leaders could have capitalised and funded AfDB many times over.
Overall, Africa must use this impasse to have a discussion towards revamping the structure of finance itself in the component countries. Most of the countries inherited and still hold on to the Anglo-Saxon banking model. Unfortunately this model is hobbled by short-termism, in comparison to the European or more specifically the German “lander” community focused model. Every British finance minister since 1945 has expressed their disaffection with the model. Indeed, Harold Lever, who was financial secretary to the British government in the sixties argued that it had made British industries and exports uncompetitive.
It is not surprising that the first venture capital company was not invented on Wall Street, but was the creation of a very left wing British socialist government in 1947. Investors in Industry was created that year to counteract the decline of British productivity and it worked! Leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo acutely understood the strategic imperative of development finance and walked the talk with positive effects. We can and must do the same, if we must develop and advance.
Adesina is the first Nigerian to head the bank and all the fluff presently surrounding him is about his plan to wean Africa from consumption and jumpstart production. Apart from the proclivity of President Trump to upend and rip apart every world order that has brought relative peace and prosperity to nations, the conspiracy to oust Adesina is disrespect served to Nigeria a là carte. Nigeria, the biggest black nation on earth, is disrespected because it has become a symbol of black failure. It has confirmed the stereotype of black people’s inability to govern themselves and prosper. Anyone who “respects” us is actually condescending. Respect is earned. People like Lee Kuan Yew and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum earned it. We cannot run away from our reality. Basil Davidson in The Black Man’s burden: Africa and The Curse Of The Nation State, correctly pointed out that the post-colonial state in Africa must be re-engineered for any meaningful advance.
What we have achieved is all motion without movement. When President Shehu Shagari spoke, Nigeria still had some clout. Disrespecting Nigeria now is a contradiction in terms. President Charles de Gaulle said in 1964 that, “Brazil is not a serious country.” That is a fitting description for Nigeria now. Nigeria is not a serious country. Nobody can disrespect a non-entity. Good luck to Dr. Adesina.
Soure: Premium Times