American and European businesses are looking for avenues of investment in Africa, but are often stymied by the complexity and diversity of the continent’s national markets. As investor interest in the continent peeks, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has taken the lead in facilitating new investments on the continent. The Bank’s 2015 election of a new president is approaching, and the Africa Center hosted a roundtable with AfDB presidential candidate Birama Boubacar Sidibé, a 23-year veteran of the AfDB who is currently serving as vice president of operations of the Islamic Development Bank. Over lunch with a group of stakeholders convened by the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, Sidibé shared his vision for the AfDB’s future.
Throughout his remarks, Sidibé reiterated his belief in a two-part, complimentary strategy for sustainable African development: advancing innovative access to financing while also focusing on skills development through investments in people and education systems. To realize this vision, Sidibé stressed the necessity of attracting talented professionals to the AfDB. Not just talent for the sake of talent, he clarified, but attracting the best and brightest to better serve the AfDB’s constituency—Africans.
Sidibé also articulated the great opportunities available to investors in African key infrastructure needs: electrical grids, railroads, ports, and roads. Those infrastructural “gaps” remain obstacles to African development that cannot be addressed unless the AfDB and national government find effective ways of incentivizing private sector investment. And—despite popular misconceptions of the AfDB as a replacement for national government efforts—Sidibé stressed that the AfDB’s role is to magnify state efforts to attract investment by serving as a financier, a broker of knowledge transfer, and as a resource for investor and institutional advice.
Participants at the discussion, moderated by Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham, included business leaders, US government officials, and researchers.