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Nigeria's finance minster to be nominated for World Bank president

The post has always been won by a U.S. nominee. Are times changing?

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Current Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks at the G-20 Financial Ministers and Central Governors meeting in South Korea as co-managing director of the World Bank on June 4, 2010. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

South Africa, Nigeria and Angola plan to nominate Nigeria’s Finance Minister to be the next president of the World Bank, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed officials.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director at the World Bank until August, has put herself forward for the job, but is not actively lobbying for the nomination, Nigerian finance ministry spokesperson Paul Nwabuikwu told Bloomberg News. “That’s why it’s quite surprising the amount of support that the idea is getting from Africa and other parts of the world,” he said.

Okonjo-Iweala is the daughter of a Nigerian economist and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, the WSJ reports. After serving the World Bank as an economist, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Nigeria’s Finance Minister in 2003, returned to the post in 2011.

When she returned to Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala vowed she would fight rampant corruption. Early this year, she helped cut much of a $7.5 billion oil subsidy that economists said institutionalized corruption and slowed development. Nation-wide protests broke out immediately, as food and fuel prices soared, forcing the government to re-instate some of the subsidy.

Current World Bank President Robert Zoellick is expected to step down when his term is completed June 30. The bank says it will conduct a “merit-based and transparent” selection process, and announce its decision by April 20.

In the past the position has always been filled by an American, nominated by the U.S. president while the International Monetary Fund is lead by a European. In recent years, “emerging powers” have vied for the leadership of both organizations, according to the WSJ. The World Bank’s mission is to “reduce poverty and support development” in poor and developing countries.

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“It’s great there’s a conversation about merit,” Kevin Gallagher, associate professor of international relations at Boston University told Bloomberg News. “She [Okonjo-Iweala] knows a heck of a lot about development."

As the Friday deadline for nominations approaches, President Barack Obama announced his choice of the president of Dartmouth College. Brazil will be nominating former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, Reuters reports. Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo will be the first to offer a formidable challenge to the U.S.'s hold on the World Bank presidency, the agency says.

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Uri Dadush, director of international economics at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, told Bloomberg News that because the U.S. and Europe hold most of the votes on the board, other candidates may not be able to beat a strong U.S. nominee. “But if they do and they are convinced they have a good candidate, I don’t think the African countries can stop this,” Dadush said.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/nigeria/120322/nigerias-finance-minster-be-nominated-world-bank-preside