Mar.23 - Angola, Nigeria and South Africa have endorsed the nomination of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, as a candidate to take over the bank when Robert Zoellick steps down in June. Ciara Sutton reports.
In an unprecedented challenge to the United States' grip on the top job at the World Back, emerging African economies are backing Nigeria's Finance Minister to become President of the global development lender. The candidacy of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been endorsed by Angola, Nigeria and South Africa, setting up the first contested bid for the post. The current World Bank President Robert Zoellick is to step down in June. The announcement shows unity among the countries which are often competing for dominance on the continent. Less than a day before the deadline to nominate, Washington has yet to announce a candidate. The U.S. has held the presidency since the bank's inception after World War Two, and still holds the largest single voting share. But the rise of developing economies has put pressure on the U.S. to make the selection process more open. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomant, says now is the time for emerging nations to step up. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NIGERIAN FINANCE MINISTER AND CANDIDATE FOR WORLD BANK PRESIDENCY, NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, SAYING: "I hope the best candidates will come forward. I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership, so I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates, and am I confident? Absolutely." The only U.S. candidate officially nominated is economist Jeffrey Sachs, who says he does not have Obama's support. He is backed by smaller developing countries such as Bhutan, East Timor, and Kenya. The World Bank board of member countries will shortlist the names of three candidates in time for the IMF and World Bank meetings in April. The new president will be taking over as the euro zone debt crisis slows the global economic recovery, and undercuts demand in emerging markets. Ciara Sutton, Reuters