African woman rattles World Bank

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Los Angeles Times

Ngozi-Ikonjo Iweala

The job of next World Bank president was offered to the United States candidate for the position, Jim Yong Kim, April 16. Prior to his selection, Kim was president of Dartmouth College and an expert in public health.

The selection process is now over, but intense competition for the job and scrutiny of African candidate, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, is what is still being talked about. Even though she was not selected, it is her supposed qualifications and blunt attitude that shook up the process.

A day after Kim was selected, a brief from the Global Information Network (GIN), a daily news service of the developing world said, Africans objected to the pick.

“Kim’s selection was announced this week, ending a tight race between the developing world candidate with years of World Bank experience and a candidate endorsed by Washington, Europe and Japan,” the GIN said.

While this did not exactly surprise Africans that someone else would be picked for the job, according to the Los Angeles Times, it is Okonjo’s determination to buck the process that is the subject of heated discussions in the blogosphere and on talk shows.

“Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said Tuesday that Okonjo-Iweala represented the voice of developing countries in a campaign for the reform of the World Bank. She was nominated in a rare show of unity of sub-Saharan Africa’s three major rival powers, South Africa, Nigeria and Angola,” The LA Times wrote.

Before the bank announced its choice, we reported the following:

The Wall Street Journal’s characterization of the hotly contested position of the next World Bank president almost sounded like something had shaken the bank building in Washington D.C. The Journal stated in a headline on the subject, Friday, April 18: Nominee Rattles World Bank. In another headline, April 14, the Washington Post stated: Can Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala break America’s hold on the World Bank?

Except, upon reading further you realize that the nomination of Asian American Jim Yong Kim is what had caused a stir and put the governing board members of the bank in a serious a bind. The bind was whether to support the candidature put forward by the U.S., or break with tradition and support someone else. The nomination process started after Robert Zoellick, appointed by former President George W. Bush, announced that he would retire from the position this summer.

At the center of the rattle is Nigerian born Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, who is current finance minister of Nigeria and former senior official at the bank. So, the Journal headline might as well have read like this, Ngozi Okonko-Iweala Rattles World Bank. While there are others who have been put forward for the same position such as Columbian Finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, it is Okonjo- Iweala who is garnering the most attention.

Okonjo-Iweala is not only seriously contesting the position, but also challenging a long held tradition of having a U. S. citizen appointed by the U. S. President to the position. At issue is the fact that Okonjo-Iweala touts herself as more qualified, with far more international development experience than Kim, who has been endorsed by leaders in the U.S, Canada and Europe.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “dozens of former World Bank officials, in a letter to the banks board of directors, called Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the most qualified candidate.”

Most expert see the American candidate Yong Kim as the likely choice when a decision is made, but the Post sees things this way:

“Which means that the real radicalism of Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy may be less about what she wants for the bank and more the fact that, for the first time, she has made it possible to envision a non-American leading the institution.”

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