African Nations Back Nigerian for Next World Bank Chief

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is "the candidate of choice" selected by three African nations that hope to break the long tradition of an American at the helm.

Posted: 03/23/2012 11:44 AM EDT

South Africa, Nigeria and Angola are all backing Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a candidate for president of the World Bank, the world’s largest development agency.


"She is the candidate of choice; not just for Africa but for everyone else," said Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Okonjo-Iweala formerly worked as managing director of the World Bank, the second most powerful position for the institution, prior to her taking her post as Nigeria’s finance minister in July 2011.


The announcement comes less than 24 hours before the deadline for nominations closes at 6 p.m. today, Friday, March 23, and marks the growing push from developing nations to have one of their own represented as leader of the institution.


"Why not consider a developing world candidate," Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said in Johannesburg, according to the Journal.


In response to the push, last year, all of the bank’s 187 member countries agreed to adopt a transparent, merit-based process of selection, in contrast to the closed-door agreements of the past. Traditionally, the U.S. selects an American to head the agency; many doubt that this year the record will be broken.


Also just ahead of the deadline, the White House made its selection for World Bank president, Asian-American Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College and a global health expert.


“The leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed,” President Obama said. “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”


The bank said it intends to choose the new president of the World Bank by early April, according to reports.



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(Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

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