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An uncertain future for Steven Dowd, a major player in the crisis at the AfDB

by Jeune Afrique Business, 07/23/2020

The ADB’s US executive director, accused of bias in the governance crisis within the African Development Bank (AfDB), is expected to join the EBRD in London, but has not yet received Senate approval.

The American entrepreneur, co-founder of several companies in agriculture and real estate in Florida, has been executive director on behalf of the United States at the AfDB, since May 2017, appointed by the White House following Walter Crawford Jones (formerly of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, appointed in 2010 by Barack Obama).

Steven Dowd has found himself on the front line in recent months in the governance crisis within the institution, triggered at the end of January by the sending of an anonymous letter from whistleblowers to the audit committee, denouncing the governance of Akinwumi Adesina, its human resources management and various contracts approved under its presidency.

For several defenders of the President of the ADB, the American representative, member of the institution’s audit committee, was not for nothing in the mobilization of whistleblowers.

The latter also point to the fact that as early as February 5, barely two weeks after the anonymous missive was sent, Steven Dowd had met lawyers Kevin T. Abikoff and Michael R. Silverman in the office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed in Washington to “discuss the whistleblower complaint”.

A month later, according to information from Jeune Afrique Business +, the US representative was accused of collusion with whistleblowers by a suspected group of dissidents among them who disassociated themselves from the initial complaint.

“No evidence was provided, not even our identities, which could easily have supported their claim. Therefore, although he vehemently proclaimed his innocence, Steven Dowd had to recuse himself from the work of the committee, “regretted the” original “group of” worried employees “, author of the complaint at the end of January.

Even before the outbreak of the controversy, the American executive director of the ADB had a severe disagreement with Vincent Nmehielle, secretary general of the institution, close collaborator and ally of Akinwumi Adesina, in particular about the placement on the agenda of the AfDB Board of Directors for the second phase of financing of the

“Technologies for the Transformation of Agriculture in Africa” program. It should be noted that a project funded through this mechanism in Nigeria was also among the “controversial” contracts cited in the whistleblower’s complaint.

The end of the crisis triggered in January is expected in the coming weeks, with the eagerly awaited publication of the assessment report of the work of the audit committee – which cleared Adesina of the accusations against him at the end of April – piloted by Mary Robinson, the former Irish president.

Whatever the outcome of this procedure, the American representative at the ADB will have followed it to the end, which is unexpected.

Indeed, as of November 19, 2019, he had been appointed by the American presidency to be director on behalf of the United States at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), established in London, replacing the economist. Judy Lynn Shelton, in the running, to join the Federal Reserve.

The appointment of the American entrepreneur, however, remains pending before the Senate, which has not yet approved it. A first hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee took place in early June, but no vote has yet been scheduled.

By comparison, barely two and a half months had elapsed between his appointment to the AfDB on July 27, 2017, and the validation of this choice by the Senate on October 10.

Neither of the ADB’s two official contact numbers associated with its US executive director were reachable as of this writing.

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