Jim Yong Kim a surprise pick to lead World Bank

Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College. Photo by: P. Virot / WHO

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim, a global health expert and current president of Dartmouth College, to be the next head of the World Bank.

Kim’s nomination comes as a surprise since Kim had not been considered a frontrunner until Obama’s announcement on Friday (March 23). It could be seen as a signal to developing countries that have criticized U.S. dominance in the World Bank. Kim is a U.S. citizen born in South Korea — the emerging economy and donor nation U.S. President Barack Obama is visiting this weekend.

If elected, Kim could bring a number of changes to the bank. With a strong background in global health — he has led the World Health Organization’s HIV and AIDS division and is a co-founder of Partners in Health — Kim could elevate the sector on the bank’s agenda. 

The actual selection of the next World Bank president will be held next month. Other nominees the bank’s executive board are considering are Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is backed by three African countries, and Colombian economist and Columbia University professor José Antonio Ocampo, who has support from Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Brazil.

The United States has held the presidency of the World Bank since it was founded in 1944 through an informal agreement with European leaders, which have since then nominated one of their own to lead the International Monetary Fund. But pressure to choose agency chiefs who hail neither from Europe nor the United States has been mounting lately — even though last year, Christine Lagarde of France assumed the top IMF post.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.