What the African Development Bank’s first woman president would do if elected


After spearheading significant economic transformation in her own country – as Cabo Verde or Cape Verde’s Minister of Finance and Planning, Cristina Duarte is focusing her attention on addressing the challenges of the entire continent.

Duarte is one of eight short-listed candidates to head up the African Development Bank (AfDB) when its current president, Donald Kaberuka’s term expires this year.

Should she be elected on 28 May, during the bank’s annual meeting, Duarte would be the first woman to lead the institution.  As any viable candidate, Duarte has mapped out her vision for the African continent which she would like to come to fruition.  

First she would like to “consolidate the work that Kaberuka has done, he has done an outstanding job”. But she also acknowledges that there are new challenges faced by the bank: “We should pay more attention to the quality of institutions in Africa … institutions are a critical ingredient for African structural transformation.”


Asked if the AfDB had the potential to become the leading financial assistance institution for African countries as opposed to the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, Duarte said with confidence that it does.

The AfDB, she believes, should also promote polices and political dialogue through a “strong advisory service department”. Duarte is a strong proponent of women’s rights. Second on her list is driving women economic empowerment.  She argues the current manner in which women are side-lined on the continent is disadvantaging it: “Africa is participating in a geo-political championship and so far everyone has been playing with a team of 11 and for some reason Africa plays with a team of five and of course we will never win the championship.”

Duarte said the time has come to play the full team. “Women economic empowerment is not just a human rights issue but it has become an economic issue,” she reasons.

“We will never experience structural economic transformation without the empowerment of women in Africa.”

Duarte believes that Africa is ready for the reforms she would like to introduce, adding that Africa has the power to control its own resources and benefit from them. “Policy reforms can create that change,” she elaborates.

Cape Verde’s Minister of Finance and Planning affirmed that even if she did not succeed in becoming the president of the AfDB she will continue to work to turn the continent around for the better.