Dominion of New York


April 3, 2012

African Woman Makes Unprecedented Bid to Head World Bank

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Written by: Kelly Virella
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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then Managing Director of the World Bank, at the October 09, 2010 – Washington DC., IMF/World Bank 2010 Annual Meetings. Photo courtesy of Flickr/World Bank Photo Collection.


he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree, has a PhD from MIT in regional economic development, and once worked as the managing director of the World Bank. With these qualifications and the endorsement of several developing countries, Nigerian Finance Minister announced last month that she hopes to become the first president of the World Bank who isn’t American.

The odds are definitely stacked against her. In its 70 year history, the bank has only been led by U.S. citizens. Because voting shares in the World Bank are determined by each member nation’s contributions, the United States has a de facto veto over who gets to be Bank president, Foreign Policy explains. Likewise, the IMF presidency is always given to a European.

The current World Bank president Robert Zoellick steps down at the end of his term in June. And President Barack Obama has already nominated Asian-American Jim Yong Kim to the position, a diversity move some say Obama made to stifle criticisms that America always heads the bank. Kim is the president of Dartmouth College, a physician and former head of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department.

But Okonjo-Iweala and her endorsers — nations like Angola, Nigeria and South Africa — are pushing ahead with her candidacy, in a landmark effort to shift the balance of power in these global institutions, Al Jazeera reports.

“The endorsement is in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund [IMF], should be merit-based, open and transparent,” the three endorsing countries said in a statement.

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About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Official portrait from his tenure as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.