World Bank finalizes senior leadership of global practices

Betty Bigombe and Juergen Voegele are the new addition to the World Bank’s list of senior directors to head its technical offices. Photo by: Ralph Alswang / Enough Project and Susan MacMillan / ILRI

The World Bank has announced the final two senior directors to lead its newly created technical offices. Juergen Voegele, who is currently a director of agriculture and environmental services at the bank will lead the new agriculture “global practice.” And Betty Bigombe, who is currently the minister of water in Uganda, will lead the fragility, conflict and violence “cross-cutting solution area.”

World Bank President Jim Kim announced the new appointments to staff last week through a posting on the bank’s Intranet, which was shared with Devex. The appointments are effective July 1.

Most of the global practice leaders were announced in April, but the posts focused on agriculture and fragility remained unfilled.

“As I mentioned in April, the recruitment effort for these positions has been extremely deliberate; we have sought to find the best candidates who could demonstrate not only exceptional technical expertise and accomplishments, but also have a proven track record of delivering results, building effective teams, and working collaboratively,” Kim said in the announcement. “These qualities will be pivotal to the success of the GPs and CCSAs and to our entire institution.”

Bigombe is the only person from sub-Saharan Africa among the cohort of senior directors. The absence of Africans in the leadership of the global practices was raised recently in a tense meeting between Kim and the African finance ministers who sit on the bank’s board of governors.

The appointment of Bigombe is also notable as it follows a period of tension between the Ugandan government and the World Bank. Earlier this year, the bank delayed a $90 million loan to the health ministry in response to the country’s discriminatory laws against homosexuals. A Ugandan government spokesperson called the postponement “blackmail.”

Bigombe has held a number of positions in the Ugandan government and was charged with leading the peace process in northern Uganda in the early 1990s. After her graduation from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, she worked at the World Bank from 1997 to 2001 in the post-conflict unit of the social development department. She has also held positions as a visiting scholar focusing on the impacts of war and violence at various Washington D.C.-based institutions.

Voegele, a German national, has been at the World Bank since 1991. The announcement cites career highlights including his management of Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project in China and his leadership of a multisectoral team that managed more than 70 projects responding to the avian influenza crisis.

The appointment of Voegele brings the number of current bank staff who were named to senior director positions to 13 out of 19.

The vice presidents of global practices will announce directors for the 19 teams in early June. The directors will work alongside the senior directors, providing support in areas such as talent management and operations.

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    Paul Stephens

    Paul Stephens is a Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. His coverage focuses on Latin America and World Bank affairs, as well as Washington's global development scene. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia - one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.