Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for World Bank President!


McKenna of the Globe and Mail has a tantalizing and wonderful suggestion


The British media is already floating Tony Blair as a possible

successor. The British Prime Minister, who is due to meet Mr. Bush at the

White House today, announced last week that he’s stepping down after a decade

in power.

Some World Bank critics want a more radical leadership change, proposing candidates

such as South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and

Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

In September 2005, I gave Okonjo-Iweala Euromoney’s Finance Minister of the

Year award as the best finance minister in the world. It was an award for which

she was more than qualified, and her departure from Nigerian government was

a major setback for that country.

Okonjo-Iweala knows the World Bank inside out and backwards, having spent most

of her career there; she’s hard-headed yet also very good at building consensus.

She’s incredibly smart, very hard-working, and has first-hand knowledge of the

problems of running a developing nation’s finances. Most importantly, as an

African, albeit one who’s spent most of her life in the US, her appointment

would be a concrete sign that the Bank exists for the benefit of the world’s

poorest nations, and is not seen by the White House as being an instrument of

US foreign policy.


I doubt any of the American names mentioned as possible replacements to Wolfowitz

can match someone like Ngozi’s experience and record on the key issues of

aid to Africa, Anti-Corruption, and the credibility needed to raise the IDA


Her experience, both as a secretary to the board of executive directors and

as a long time bank career member that rose through the ranks to the level

of VP, also put her way ahead on both the question of building trust with

the staff of the bank and also rebuilding the relationship with the board

of directors.

The only questions about her chances have to do with whether the President

of the US , who has the power to do this, is smart enough to name the first

woman, the first African, and the first non-American as the head of the World


Ngozi would be better suited for the job than any American, Bill Clinton

included. She’s certainly better qualified than Hank Paulson,

who seems to be cropping

up as another possible World Bank president. He knows how to run a big organization,

and he has solid environmental credentials, but his development experience is

slim, and in any case it’s long since time that someone other than an American

gets the gig.

I doubt that Bush has the vision to nominate Ngozi. But it would be a wonderful

day if he did.

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