Okonjo-Iweala: 'I don't mind who wins'

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former World Bank managing director. Photo by: International Monetary Fund

For someone who doesn’t mind who wins the presidency at the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s passion was palpable while she laid out her vision for the international financial institution.

Coming from an hourslong interview with the bank’s board of directors, Okonjo-Iweala gave a rundown of her “vision” for the bank Monday (April 9). These included boosting partnerships with the different actors in the development community and “cutting away” bureaucracy for the bank to be able to deliver timely responses. She also emphasized the need to focus on job creation across the globe, especially among the youth.

The former World Bank managing director was speaking from experience. Okonjo-Iweala said her vision for the bank is “very much informed” of her life in Nigeria, where she experienced life’s hardships. She said she knows what it feels like to not have enough food to eat, have to fetch water from the stream or not have a place to sleep.

“It’s not good enough to say you know about poverty. You have to live it,” Okonjo-Iweala said, garnering a round of applause.

Okonjo-Iweala was speaking at an event organized by the Center for Global Development and The Washington Post. Apart from her vision, she expressed support for current bank initiatives, such as allowing countries to set their own agenda. However, she said countries that had not set their own agenda should not blame the bank in the event it intervenes.

Okonjo-Iweala also addressed worries that the United States might “drop” the bank if a non-American gets the top post. The United States is one of the biggest donors to the International Development Association, the bank’s lending arm for poor countries, along with the United Kingdom.

“I think we are misjudging the U.S. Congress,” she said, adding that the United States can benefit from leading the open, merit-based system in the selection process that she has been calling for.

But if the United States does drop the bank, Okonjo-Iweala said she is ready to use her “persuasive powers” to convince Congress. But she said she did not use such tactics in the race for World Bank president. She said she was campaigning for an open, merit-based system, but not for herself.

The event aims to engage the three World Bank nominees on their visions or plans as president of the multilateral institution. Ocampo will be participating in a similar event Tuesday (April 10). Kim, the U.S. nominee for World Bank president, has yet to respond to the organizers’ invitation.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.