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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, world bankYou may not know Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria‘s Finance Minister, but that may soon change.

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The World Bank is soon to select its new leader next week and many insiders are wondering if the bank’s board of directors will break tradition and select a non-American to assume the helm.

While President Barack Obama was impressed with Okonjo-Iweala diplomatic skills–she successfully convinced then Senator Obama and the rest of the world to ease her country’s debt burden in 2005–he has already nominated his own candidate for the  post: Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim.

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But the President’s preference for the World Bank post has not discouraged her from arguing that it is she, an African woman who has lived the poverty that the bank’s policy’s are suppose to help end, who is most qualified.

“I know what it means to go to the stream to fetch water . . . what it means when people are poor and don’t have enough to eat. It’s not enough to say you know about poverty,” Okonjo-Iweala said recently, explaining why she should lead the World Bank. “You have to live it.”

For those who are not familiar with the World Bank, it is an institution that has a mission of reducing poverty and supporting development. The Washington, D.C.-headquartered organization has more than 100 offices worldwide with over 9,000 staffers. The institution has its fair share of critics who argue that it does not meet up to its mission of helping the poorest countries rise out of debt.

For one, many feel that the World Bank does not have enough senior staff from developing nations in key policy making roles. (A Wall Street Journal article reports that Obama’s pick for the World Bank’s top job has little international economic experience). Moreover, in the institution’s 66-year history, it has been lead only by American, white males. Another criticism levied against the World Bank is that its policies have done little to help the poorest countries benefit from globalization.

So could Okonjo-Iweala, who earned an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, potentially be the person that the World Bank needs? Look at Okonjo-Iweala’s TED talk below and see for yourself!


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