Okonjo Iweala Vs. Jim Yong Kim ; What has Merit Got to do with It?

Last night the internet was awash with the World Bank’s decision to pick American Doctor, Jim Yong Kim, over Nigeria’s current finance minister Ngozi Okonjo –Iweala. The obvious truth is that some positions in the international community needs the ultimate endorsement from the world super-powers (which includes America).

In 2005 Okonjo-Iweala, the educated bold and blunt ambitious female from Africa’s largest nation convinced the world she could lessen Nigeria’s debt burden and stimulate massive economic growth and development within the Nation’s industrial framework. Despite the odds which stood in her path then, she got the recognition she deserved as the Worldbank Managing Director.

During her term, Nigeria paid $12 billion up front to win a further $18 billion in debt relief, and while it is still debatable if that was a good deal, it relived the country a great deal. However, the position as the world bank president was a different case; some people say she wasn’t chosen because of her citizenship as Nigeria. Several political analysts have cried foul over the selection process. Jeremy Weate tweeted recently that “The voting rules for the WB and the IMF are an anachronistic joke, the West has no right to preach democracy to anyone”.

Unlike Kim whose major professional experience is mainly in public health, Okonjo’s track record seemed more qualified if it was based on merit. This seeming reality uncomfortably unearths the fact that indeed there are underlining fundamental factors that influence the choice of president for the bank.

There indeed does appear to be a disconnect between merit and the eventually choice of Kim. Maybe it is true that being Nigerian affected Okonjo’s candidacy but I believe apart from the fact that Nigeria as a country has done nothing politically and economically to be a positive example to the world, America could not be sending the wrong signal that it is ok to have a messed up economy and not understand yet seek to head the bank’s economy.

I am Nigerian, feminist and minority group activity, but let’s be honest for a second, Okonjo was more qualified for the job but Kim got it, reasons are not farfetched. In today’s international community where everything is about economic growth, political stability and infrastructural development, perception is key; there is a reason why President Obama visited Ghana and not Nigeria the alleged gaint of Africa.

Furthermore, this whole process proves that developing nations need to fix themselves before seeking to fix the world, I mean why would the world super-powers trust the “Worldbank” in the care of a Nigerian who is a serving minister and her economy is upside down? What has Nigerian achieved politically and economically to merit this?

For me, her stint with the abrupt subsidy removal in January made me see Okonjo-Iweala in two different perspectives (a) that she doesn’t really understand the stages in which development happens and (b) that being in the worldbank for many years doesn’t necessarily mean that one knows what they are doing for development, and isn’t the worldbank about development?.

Yeah we can say Jim isn’t qualified but he is American and that qualifies him, after all America is the world’s most powerful nation on earth or at least so they say.

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About rebeccaidd

Fun, passionate, inquisitive exploring development
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3 Responses to Okonjo Iweala Vs. Jim Yong Kim ; What has Merit Got to do with It?

  1. It was not a democratic or open race. We never got to hear what Kim’s proposals were. At the Least, Okonjo Iweala mentioned here vision in the CGD-WP forum.

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