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All is set as Africa and Africans eagerly wait to have an African, for the first time in the history of the World Bank chosen as its president. Nominated as Africa's candidate is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's Finance Minister whose wealth of experience as former member of the senior management of World Bank and Nigerian finance minister stand her in a good position to clinch the position. TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE x-rays her chances.
THE Nigerian Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi. Okonjo-Iweala recently emerged as Africa’s nominee for the Presidency of World Bank. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is contesting against two other nominees including Jim Yong Kim of the United States and former Colombian Finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo.
The World Bank is a full-service development institution that provides loans and grants and development advice to promote development, which is the transformation of countries towards prosperous economies that support broad based improvements in material well-being, democratic polities that respect citizen rights and respond to citizen demands, and capable administrations that allow governments to carry out their core functions—law and order, education, macro-economic management, health, infrastructure, regulation, security.
The former Managing Director of World Bank has expressed confidence that she could win the contest to become President of the World Bank if the election process is open and transparent.
“This is the first time that it is happening, and if there is an open and transparent process, I stand a good chance. If there is no level playing field, then we will see what happens. Otherwise, I stand a very good chance; I have the credentials for this job, and I can only remain positive,” she stated.
According to her, “Africa is excited about this nomination; they see it as something that is very significant for the continent because it has never happened before. This is the first time the position of a World Bank president will be contested and Africa is ready to pull together to show its support for my nomination,” she added.
Optimistic that she will emerge the World Bank president, Okonjo-Iweala has expressed, “There are many emerging market countries that are very supportive of my candidacy and many of them feel that the World Bank is ready for someone who understands the challenges of emerging economies and of developing countries, and can totally focus on expanding opportunities for growth and development using practical financial tools to create growth.”
The Nigeria’s finance minister highlighting on her vision stressed that “my vision for the World Bank is that of an institution that is swifter and nimbler in tackling what I consider the most important challenge of many countries, especially developing economies, which is job creation.
Lending his voice, a former Minister of Finance and presently Nigeria’s representative at the World Bank, Mr. Mansur said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala possesses “one of the best credentials for the position at the moment.”
Muhtar in his explanation had stated that one of the reasons being advanced by most of the people who have approached President Goodluck Jonathan to put up the Minister for the World Bank’s top job, and many others within the continent and outside who have canvassed for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, is her impeccable credentials and the experience she had garnered in office as a member of the senior management at the World Bank.
He added that there has been a lot of interest from other developing and economically emerging countries for the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala for the position of World Bank presidency, adding that the campaign is focused not so much on the nationality of the candidates, but on the qualities and credentials they bring to the table.
There is no contending the fact that the finance minister has made her mark in Nigeria’s economic sector’s. It is recalled that prior to her ministerial career in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala was vice-president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group. She left it in 2003 after she was appointed to President Obasanjo's cabinet as Finance Minister on 15 July.
Very remarkable and on record was her effort in ensuring Nigeria is relieved of her debt. In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that struck a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria's external debt (US $12 billion) in return for an $18 billion debt write-off. Prior to the partial debt payment and write-off, Nigeria spent roughly US $1 billion every year on debt servicing, without making a dent in the principal owed.
Okonjo-Iweala also introduced the practice of publishing each state's monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government in the newspapers. She was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor's. Nigeria is considered to have defaulted on its sovereign debt in 1983.
According to the regulations on ground, to be qualiified for World Bank No 1 office, a candidate or nomineee should pocess the following credentials: Some experience in government and the process of policy-making (as the World Bank’s clients are all governments); some acquaintance with economic policy and policy making—including the tough choices like allocation of resources across uses; some knowledge of finance (it is, after all, a bank that makes income from lending money); some management experience in a multilateral organisation and exposure to the breadth of development issues.
Going through her credentials, Okonjo-Iweala will glaringly be rated high in all these areas.
Ngozi has been the Minister of Finance of Nigeria, twice. If one had to name a tough job in the world this it is believed would be it. She did it first from 2003 to 2006 and by all accounts handled a very tough situation including tackling entrenched corruption in an admirable way.
Again she has had training in economic development from MIT. Ngozi has been a Minister of Finance making budget allocations and dealt with the entire array of economic policies to promote growth and prosperity.
In addition to these is her knowlege of finance which had helped in the step she took in leading the Paris Club negotiations that led to billions of dollars debt relief for Nigeria. Jim has no demonstrable experience in finance, banking, the private sector.Management Experience.
From 2007 to 2011 Ngozi was a Managing Director of the World Bank. She has therefore in-depth experience running a large and complex multi-lateral organisation and dealing with all development issues.
Okonjo-Iweala has done development work in many settings and in many positions both in Nigeria and within the World Bank.