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Nigeria’s finance minister to run for World Bank top job

Published on 23/03/2012

Nigeria's finance minister Friday joined the race for the top World Bank job, backed by Africa's leading economies in a push for greater influence at global financial bodies dominated by rich nations.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, flanked by counterparts from South Africa and Angola, unveiled her candidacy at a press conference in Pretoria, putting the weight of Africa’s biggest economy and its two biggest oil producers behind her bid.

“I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership,” she said.

“So I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates, and am I confident? Absolutely.”

The African bid emerged just hours before the deadline for nominations to succeed current president Robert Zoellick, who is stepping down at the end of his term on June 30.

The surprise announcement came just two days after her spokesman denied she was angling for the job.

Former Colombian finance minister and central bank chief, Jose Antonio Ocampo, announced his candidacy Wednesday.

Washington on Friday nominated the president of a prestigious Ivy League college, Korean-American Jim Yong Kim, for the job that has been held by an American since the World Bank was founded nearly 70 years ago.

Okonjo-Iweala is a respected former World Bank managing director who joined Nigeria’s government as finance minister in August.

“I have long experience in the World Bank, in government and in diplomacy and I look forward to giving you my vision at the appropriate time,” she said.

“I share the World Bank vision of fighting poverty with passion. The issue is in what direction one must take this to make this the most beneficial,” she said.

The World Bank has 187 member nations and focuses its activities on development loans.

Under a tacit agreement since the World Bank and its sister institution the International Monetary Fund were founded, the United States always selects an American as World Bank president and Europe puts a European at the IMF helm.

That traditional arrangement has triggered outrage from developing and emerging economies seeking greater representation to reflect their rising contributions to the global economy.

In a joint statement, Angola, Nigeria and South Africa said they had endorsed Okonjo-Iweala “in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, should be merit-based, open and transparent.”

“The three countries will continue to encourage the World Bank Group to focus on infrastructure investment that enhances intra-African trade and regional integration,” the statement said.

“On job creation, the three countries will encourage the World Bank to partner with member countries in developing policies and programmes to increase employment creation, especially for the youth.”

A candidate must be presented by the Bank’s 25 executive directors, or by governors through the director representing them on the executive board.

The World Bank said that if there are more than three candidates, it will release a short list of three candidates but did not indicate the timing of the publication.