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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead emerging countries' bid to control World Bank (VIDEO)


Nigerian Economy and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, speaks on January 26, 2012 at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss resort of Davos.


Vincenzo Pinto

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.

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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.

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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.

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