Friday, March 23, 2012

Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the running for chief of World Bank

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to run for the position of the next World Bank chief, it emerged on Friday.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan made the announcement in Pretoria on Friday - the day nominations close in Washington for the top post of the international body.

"We are very proud as Africa and certainly this constituency to confirm that the Minister of Finance of Nigeria is going to be a candidate for the president of the World Bank," said Gordhan, ahead of a constituency meeting of the World Bank between South Africa, Angola and Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala is serving a second term as finance minister and has worked in a senior post at the World Bank for several years.

Gordhan described her as being "very experienced" and that she holds eminent academic qualifications.

"She would be a candidate of choice not just on the African continent but well beyond as well," said Gordhan.

The constituency meeting between South Africa, Nigeria and Angola forms part of the world body's three sub-Saharan constituencies out of a total of 25 constituencies. Gordhan's meeting with Okonjo-Iweala and Angolan Planning Minister Ana Dias Lourenco began yesterday.

Gordhan added that the G20 had made a decision that future processes for the selection of heads of international finance institutions like the World Bank need to be open, transparent, democratic and merit based.

"We believe that the candidature of Minister Okonjo-Iweala enables those that are going to make this decision in Washington to have before them an eminently qualified individual, who can balance the needs of both developed and importantly, developing countries; [and] also provide a new vision and sense of mission to the World Bank and its relevance, particularly to developing countries across the globe," he said.

South Africa and Angola have committed themselves to mobilise support for the Nigerian minister through the various bodies to which they belong on the continent. The countries will garner support for her candidature at next week's meeting of the continent's finance ministers in Addis Ababa, as well as at the BRICS summit where South Africa will encourage members to support her candidacy.

The World Bank is expected to choose its next leader before the Spring meeting in late April.

Asked about other nominated candidates, Gordhan said the US was expected to field a candidate later today.

"We've heard the name of a Columbian academic and former Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo and Prof Jeffrey Sachs has made himself available. There could well be last minute surprises that we are unaware of," noted Gordhan.

Okonjo-Iweala said she hoped the contest she faces will be merit based and that those nominated apply their best minds in the interviewing processes.

"I hope that the best candidates come forward. I consider the World Bank [as] a very important institution for the world, particularly developing countries deserving of the best leadership. I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates. Am I confident? Absolutely," she said.

She further noted that it would be premature for her to lay out her vision for the World Bank.

Current president of the institution, Robert Zoellick, announced in February that he will step down at the end of June.

Among some of the issues discussed by the constituency is the World Bank itself, the kinds of programmes with which it is involved and the extent of the programmes that relate to food and fuel crises, as well as the issue of sustainable development and the modernisation of the World Bank.

"We've been reflecting on how some of these programmes relate to our countries and the continent more broadly and how we could encourage the World Bank to find ways of becoming more relevant to promoting development on the African continent," said Gordhan.


Related stories:  Video - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks to CNN's Richard Quest about her bid for World Bank top job

Video - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala shares a story about military intimidation 

Video - Newly appointed Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala focuses on creating jobs 

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