In seeking WB job, Africa should be more strategic
The race to find a new President of the World Bank is picking more interest than it usually does, partly due to the growing desire to end the 68 year old unwritten rule of having an American lead this institution.
The World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are not very different from Swaziland in leadership. They are run like monarchies. One is run by a son of an American and the other by a daughter/son of a European. The rest of the world is left out as spectators.
This is not about to change now. What might change though, is a break away from the tradition of appointing individuals who think that a cheese-burger or hot-dog is the only edible thing and can’t imagine how a Nigerian enjoys Fufu.
Since its inception in 1944, the World Bank has largely been governed by a politician or a celebrated Wall Street Banker or Economist who thinks the most remote part of the world is in Alaska or South West Colorado. None, at least out of the last 11 presidents, has had a first-hand experience of the real challenges that face the developing world and for which the Bank largely serves.
However, the nomination of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean born American anthropologist, could be seen as a shift in this legacy and an answer to the growing demand for change. His 30 years of experience as both an implementer in some of the world's poorest communities, as well as a global policy-maker and academic, makes him an ideal candidate who might silence even the most vocal critics of US' dominance of the bank.
Dr. Kim has rubbed shoulders with the poor, mingled with the most destitute and sought sustainable solutions for some of their problems. Closer home, the International NGO, Partners in Health, that he co-founded along with Dr. Paul Farmer is in villages providing healthcare to vulnerable communities including construction of health facilities.
Therefore, Dr. Jim Kim will be taking on this multilateral body with a different kind of experience, one that is crucial in making the institution more responsive to the needs of the developing world.
And I want to believe that despite his close ties with this Nation, President Paul Kagame's early endorsement of Dr. Jim Kim is not only linked to the friendship the two men share, but largely informed by the credentials of this American – a man who knows a thing or two about poverty.
This leads me to what I wanted to discuss today. The manner and form in which Africa announced its candidate for this coveted position only served to expose the uncoordinated course we choose to take.
Nigeria's Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal is by no means an underdog when it comes to the global economic stage. She has the experience and skills to run this Bretton woods institution with ease. What I found wrong was how her candidature was declared, in a trinity-like arrangement between South Africa, Angola and Nigeria.
The rest of the continent was kept in the dark, like I later learnt from President Kagame’s tweet. The issue here is not even leaving others out. It’s the poor and late timing of such an important decision.
Snatching this position from Americans will not come easy. It needs a lot of strategic planning and lobbying ahead of time with a working formula on how to navigate around the voting mathematics.
Most important, the candidate should be a candidate of the entire continent and not a few. It should be a candidate agreed upon through formal structures of the African Union. There must be a binding resolution compelling member states to market the candidate and vote as one bloc. Not a plan hatched last minute and taking others by surprise.
The approach has to be collective, strategy needs to be solid and message must be convincing to at least those with a shared view of ending this monopoly.
My personal view is that the unwritten rule of having an American run the World Bank and a European run the IMF is archaic. If Brazil’s economy is now 6th in the World having surpassed Britain, and China remains second, what reasons do you have to deny these people a slot at the helm these institutions? The same applies to the UN Security Council.
For this change to come, it will need more than a quickly hatched plan like we see this time round.
For now, I can thank the US for nominating a man who will not miss dearly his Burger once visiting this part of the world.
Contact email: On twitter [at]aasiimwe akaeus[at]yahoo.com