Two Rwandans: a top diplomat, and a celebrated economist are on a fifteen-person list of candidates being eyed to head the African Union; they are Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and ex-AfDB President Dr. Donald Kaberuka, who’s widely favored for the job.
An online poll conducted this week by Charles Onyango Obbo’s Rogue Chiefs, and published on Africapedia website, showed Dr. Kaberuka leading the pack with 57 percent followed by Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima at 15 percent.
Byanyima is currently Executive Director of Oxfam International, and also wife to Uganda’s opposition leader Dr. Kiiza Besigye.
The July AU summit held in Kigali ignored interest from Botswana’s Foreign Affairs minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign Affairs Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy, and Uganda’s former vice president Specioza Kazibwe, to succeed incumbent chairperson, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
But a decision will have to be made at the next AU summit slated for January next year, in Addis Ababa; yet for Kaberuka to take the job, he would have to be nominated and endorsed by East Africa, as a regional candidate.
However, the man himself must show that he is interested in the assignment. So far, he has not officially declared interest in the job and my hope is that he keeps it that way.
When your name is Dr. Donald Kaberuka, with the kind of national, continental and international experience that the man has, you are technically qualified for any top job available.
Thus, being in such an enviable situation, it is up to Kaberuka to exercise his wisdom to carefully look at available offers and politely turn down some of them, no matter how appealing; if confirmed, the AU job should be on his list of offers to graciously reject.
I have been honoured to, twice, interview Kaberuka and I will tell you that he’s better off an economist than a politician; the AU is largely a political outfit although some of its key performance indicators are economic.
In May last year, I delivered a message to Kaberuka, from two senior officials of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) based in Paris, France; they wanted to book the Rwandan, ahead of his retirement from AfDB.
He was being eyed to Patron the OECD’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, to arrest illicit financial flows out of Africa costing the continent an estimated over US$60 billion a year.
Regarding the offer, he told me, that although his Presidency was coming to an end; he wasn’t planning to go on a job hunt but noted he would be happy to support any effort that would contribute to the transformation of Africa.
Kaberuka has already given his greatest service to the continent, following his remarkable decade at the African Development Bank where he established foundational initiatives such as Africa50 and others, which will shape economic transformation for decades to come.
When Africa entrusted Kaberuka with the AfDB, he turned it around and handed over to his successor, a triple-A rated bank whose portfolio had doubled from $5 billion a year to $12 billion.
Kaberuka also increased AfDB’s private sector lending ten times, from $200 million to $2 billion a year and grew the institution’s capital from $32 billion to $100 billion.
It is therefore rather unjust to a man who only recently retired from heading a US$100 billion dollar institution to become chairperson of the African Union, whose approved total budget for 2016 is only slightly over US$416 million with an operating budget of just US$150 million.
I am sure that Kaberuka, even after his colourful service at AfDB, can continue serving Africa quite constructively, without necessarily being at the helm of African Union Commission.
For instance, the recent launch of the AU Passport during the July 18 summit in Kigali can easily be traced to Kaberuka’s lobbying effort while at the AfDB where he also initiated Africa’s Visa Openness Index whose findings largely inspired the new continental travel permit.
Kaberuka who is currently a Hauser Leader-in-Residence at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Centre for Public Leadership is also, already serving the AU as a High Representative for the peace fund, tasked with mobilizing additional resources for peace and security related activities.
At the recently concluded summit in Kigali, Kaberuka made headlines with his pragmatic proposal of 0.2 percent import levy on eligible imports to be tucked away on special blocked account in each country’s respective central banks.
The proposal that has since been christened the ‘Kaberuka Equation,’ if successful, would help the AU easily generate some US$1.2 billion annually and disentangle its budget from overdependence on western donors.
Some people don’t need an ostentatious title to impact on society. Kaberuka is one of them. His ideas can build Africa even without the AU job; besides, he has a book to write and finish, he needn’t be distracted, for now.
If we must get Kaberuka a new job, let it be as President of the World Bank. The US backed Jim Yong Kim wants a second term but the WB’s influential staff association is against the Korean’s leadership and has called for an international search for his replacement. Now that is the kind of job I would want for Kaberuka.