EBRD: There’s no place like home
Before it sets off into Africa, the international financial institution needs to look to its roots.
Suma Chakrabarti doesn’t give up easily. Less than a year after the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) failed in his bid to persuade shareholders to expand its remit to sub-Saharan Africa, he has announced plans to raise the issue again at this year’s annual meeting in May.
In some respects, Chakrabarti’s proposals make sense. The EBRD has plenty of capital and has been struggling for years to find ways to deploy it in its traditional countries of operation, particularly since the bank’s shareholders voted to suspend activity in Russia in 2014.
Proponents of a move into southern Africa point to the success of the EBRD’s initial forays outside the former communist bloc. Starting with Turkey in 2009, the bank been steadily expanding its network around the Mediterranean and is now active in markets from Morocco to Jordan, as well as Greece and Cyprus.
Chakrabarti also contends that promoting prosperity in Africa is essential to solving Europe’s own problems of migration and security. This argument is both cogent and canny, in that it provides an answer to conservatives who dismiss international development institutions as instruments of globalization.