But the IFC's money-generating strategy has at least one benefit: It sustains the jobs of the people who work for it. The "more money the IFC makes, the more the bank has [available] to invest," says Griffiths, the director of Eurodad. "Staff is incentivized to make money."
Francis Kalitsi, a former IFC employee who is now a managing partner at private-equity firm Serengeti Capital in Accra, has a similar view. "To get ahead, you had to book big transactions," he recalls of his time at the IFC. "The IFC is very profit-focused. The IFC does not address poverty, and its investments rarely touch the poor."
The IFC sets annual targets for the number, size, and types of deals employees should complete, and it awards performance bonuses for reaching these targets, according to several current and former IFC staffers. "If you don't reach the target, you don't get a bonus," says Alan Moody, a former IFC manager who now works elsewhere at the World Bank. Deals often come to the IFC from private companies, not the other way around. "We choose our projects by identifying key clients and asking them what their needs are," says the IFC's Moyo. That means, though, that by following private companies' priorities, the IFC makes investments that are not necessarily aligned with countries' own development strategies.
Even if the IFC focused more of its resources on poverty, it doesn't have a good way to track whether its work has any impact. The 2011 report -- which advises that the IFC "needs to think carefully about questions such as who the poor are, where they are located, and how they can be reached" -- criticizes the IFC for lacking metrics for its investments, saying it fails to "[d]efine, monitor, and report poverty outcomes for projects."
The IFC does not contest these criticisms. Its management responded to the evaluation group's report by stating, "We broadly agree with [the] report's lessons and recommendations" and conceded that the "IFC has not been consistent in stating … the anticipated poverty reduction effects of a project." The IFC notes that it several years ago began using a Development Outcome Tracking System (DOTS) to measure the effectiveness of its projects at spurring economic development and alleviating poverty. This system, however, has drawn snickers from a number of IFC clients. They note that the DOTS ratings rely heavily on self-reporting by the recipient companies and depend to some extent on financial data for the entire firm, often with multiple divisions around the world, rather than focusing on the specific area of the IFC-funded project. Still, Kaldany expresses enthusiasm for the effort, saying it is pathbreaking and getting better.
Meanwhile, there has been little evidence of change on the ground. Everywhere I looked -- in Ghana, in nearby West Africa, and globally -- the IFC still seems to be giving its mandate to fight poverty short shrift.
In finance, for example, R. Yofi Grant, executive director of Databank, one of Ghana's largest banks, told me that the IFC's practice of providing loans at attractive terms to multinational companies "crowds out local banks and private-equity firms by taking the juiciest investments and walking away with a healthy return."
Grant says that the IFC recently organized a $115 million financing package for global telecom giant Vodafone to expand its operations in Ghana, even though six telecom companies already operate in the country. Despite such robust private investment, the IFC's loan package for Vodafone was its second in two years. "That is not poverty reduction, and these are not frontier investments," Grant says, referring to the IFC's refrain that it invests where other financiers might not. "The IFC says all the right things and does all the wrong things."