If Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister For Finance And Coordinating Minister of the Economy wins the position of World Bank President in June, she would be making history. An Okonjo Iweala World bank presidency would mean she is the first Non-American to hold that role. It would also mean that she is the first woman and the first individual of African descent to head the revered institution.
From an academic standpoint, the two-time Minister for finance is the best candidate for the job. Educated at Harvard University with honors in 1977. She also has a Ph.D. in regional economic development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981. This followed an illustrious career in the World Bank. She served as vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group before resigning in 2003 for her first stint as Nigeria’s minister of finance. She returned to the World’s apex banking body in the capacity of managing Director, a position she left to return as Finance minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy in 2011. With the calls for her instatement as President of the body, she appears poised to leave her position to resume as World Bank president.
Her rivals appear to be Korean-American Doctor Jim Yong Kim who is US President Barack Obama’s choice and Jose Ocampo who is the erstwhile Finance Minister of Colombia AND Brazil’s choice. However, if economists and experts the world over have a say in the matter, Ms Okonjo Iweala is the best man for the job. Her credentials as two-time minister set her apart from Ocampo who is her closest rival in terms of experience. This is also her second time to be considered for the position; the first in 2007 upon the exit of former World bank President, Paul Wolfowitz.
Her record as a brilliant and transparent economist has won her the support of the African union and members of the financial press. The economist states, “She has sobered up its[Nigeria’s] public finances and injected a measure of transparency. She led the Paris Club negotiations to reschedule her country’s debt and earned rave reviews as managing director of the World Bank in 2007-11. Hers is the CV of a formidable public economist.” Other major publications like the Financial Times laud her ‘charismatic personality’ and reforming drive.
With her vision for the World Bank, she appears to be echoing a lot of European sentiments “I will work to create an institution that can work fast to support countries in times of volatility and uncertainty such as many global economies are currently facing.”
A statement that sounds more encouraging to European and African leaders than Yong Kim’s focus on science. He stated, “I will come with an open mind and apply my medical and social-science training to take an evidence-based approach.
With the solid African Union endorsement and the likely support of most European nations in tow. it appears that the time has come for America to come to terms with the idea of a female and African World Bank president.
However only time will tell if the US is ready to relinquish its stranglehold on the World Bank, a position that arose from a post-world war informal agreement that positioned a European to run the IMF while the US headed the World Bank.