Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance Minister, will challenge the US grip on the World Bank presidency by running for American Robert Zoellick’s job, her South African counterpart announced Friday.
Agence France-Presse wrote that the announcement highlighted a landmark push from emerging countries for high-profile roles in those international institutions which have remained the preserve of advanced nations.
The nomination of former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo — currently serving as a Columbia University professor — by Brazil, was also expected.
Okonjo-Iweala is a respected economist, diplomat and former World Bank managing director, according to Reuters.
“We are proud to confirm that the Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be a candidate,” Pravin Gordhan told reporters at a press conference, standing alongside her.
AFP cited Brazil as saying this week that both Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo would be “great” candidates to replace Zoellick as head of the Washington-based development institution.
However, the US has the majority of votes and enough support from European countries to ensure that another American will succeed Zoellick when he steps down at the end of June, Reuters wrote.
It added that: “Washington has held the presidency since the Bank’s founding after World War II, while a European has always led the International Monetary Fund. It has yet to publicly identify a nominee to succeed Zoellick.
The Obama administration has said it will name a candidate by Friday 6 p.m., the deadline for submitting nominations.
According to the BBC, former White House adviser Larry Summers has been mentioned.
However, the White House on Thursday declined to name its preferred candidate, with the AFP quoting spokesman Jay Carney as saying he had “no news to make on the World Bank front.”
AFP also cited a source as saying that Okonjo-Iweala’s was “an extremely serious candidacy: she is a woman, black, minister of finance and is a well-known person at the World Bank,” where she was managing director from 2007 to 2011.
According to Reuters, emerging and developing economies — despite a long-held desired to break US and European dominance of the institutions — has failed to build the combined support.
However, Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, has announced that he will step down at the end of his current term.
He informed the board of his decision today,the Associated Press reported.
They will now begin the process of selecting a new president, before Zoellick’s five-year term comes to an end on June 30.
Appointments may technically be in the hands of the bank’s leadership, but according to the Wall Street Journal, in reality the decision lies with the White House – which always appoints an American.
This time round, however, the position could be opened up to a candidate from an emerging economy, the Financial Times speculated.
“The Bank has recognized that we live in a world of multiple poles of growth where traditional concepts of the ‘Third World’ are now outdated and where developing countries have a key role to play as growth drivers and responsible stakeholders,” Zoellick said in a statement today.
Zoellick became president of the World Bank in 2007, after his predecessor, Paul Wolfowitz, was forced to resign after controversy over his relationship with a female employee. The then president George W. Bush nominated Zoellick for the position.
Foreign Policy cited a source within the World Bank who said it was rumored the current US administration told Zoellick earlier this week that “they would like to see him go.” However, another source told its correspondent that Zoellick had made the decision independently.