from Africa in Transition

Africa and the World Bank Presidency

April 27, 2012

Blog Post

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Sub-Saharan Africa


South Africa

International Organizations


Many Africans were proud that the continent fielded a highly qualified candidate for the World Bank presidency, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. By the time the vote took place, serious African observers recognized that the American candidate would win. But, there was also satisfaction that the three sub-Saharan heavyweights – Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola – had come together to nominate and support her.

Much African media seems to have taken it as a given that she was more qualified than the Jim Kim, the American nominee, and that he won only because of American heavy-handedness and because of the practice within the international financial institutions that the U.S. selects the World Bank president and the Europeans choose the head of the International Monetary Fund. This reality many African observers see as fundamentally unfair and unjust.

I have heard South Africans, especially, express the view that there are parallels between the IFI presidential arrangements and the permanent membership of the UN Security Council: both are outmoded, and if they are not adjusted to fit “the new economic realities” – principally “the emergence of a multipolar world,” they risk becoming irrelevant.

There is a touch of irony in the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala candidacy. The World Bank is not popular among many Nigerians, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is not personally popular because she is seen as implementing its policies. Yet, her candidacy made her a heroine, at least for the moment.