Is Adeosun Up To Nigeria’s Challenge?

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari announced his new cabinet in November, appointing former banker and government official Kemi Adeosun minister of Finance.

This came as a surprise, as many expected former Goldman Sachs banker Okechukwu Enelamah to land the job. He was named minister for Industry, Trade and Investment.

Why the curveball? “I think the reason the president decided to go with her over other equally qualified candidates was to respond to concerns that he wasn’t gender-sensitive,” says Olusegun Sotola, senior research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Analysis in Lagos.

Adeosun, 48, British-born, had a strong run as finance commissioner of the state of Ògùn, north of the capital, Lagos. She has worked as an investment banker at Chapel Hill Denham and an accountant at PwC. She’s solid, analysts agree, but her international outlook and intellectual chops must still be put to the test.

“Broadly, she is a good fit for the post; she has the functional capacity to deliver,” says Sotola. “But the role of Finance minister goes beyond accounting and public finance management.”

John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics in London, notes that Adeosun “doesn’t have anything like the profile of her predecessor, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.” That said, “Iweala had a great CV, and I don’t think that she will be remembered as a shining success,” he added

Adeosun enters at a tough time. Investors are increasingly queasy about Nigeria, which recently fined the local subsidiary of South Africa’s MTN $5.2 billion for being too slow to deactivate unregistered Sim cards.

Economic growth has slowed, in part because of falling oil prices, putting pressure on the naira, the national currency. The central bank has propped it up with foreign exchange controls that investors dislike. “The portfolio is a bit of a poisoned chalice, at the moment,” says Ashbourne. “I certainly don’t envy her job.”