The countries that want a place at the World Bank High Table where the pie is being sliced should pay for it…and back in Africa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of South Africa president Jacob Zuma deserves to be the next African Union boss. She survived marriage to the philandering and polygamous Zuma, she should find being AU chairperson a breeze.
The World Bank presidency was done and dusted yesterday. US President Barack Obama’s appointee, Korean-American Jim Yong Kim, got the job.
He saw off a challenge by the otherwise admirable Nigerian Finance Minister, Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, previously a director at the World Bank. As the BBC reported it, the decision did not come as a surprise, even to Okonjo-Iweala.
“You know this thing is not really being decided on merit,” she said before the announcement, reported the BBC
For more than 50 years, the US has picked the head of the World Bank. It is a tradition that has been criticised as undemocratic, and anachronistic in a globalised egalitarian world.
Yes and No. If the World Bank chieftainship were the preserve of accomplished economists, then Okonjo-Iweala is right – she was more qualified than Kim, who is a public health expert, although he has extensive experience working with poor countries.
However, this was never about Okonjo-Iweala’s qualification. She was let down by the fact that she was born in a “wrong” country, as far the contest for the World Bank job goes.
The US contributes $1.51 Billion to the World Bank annually, which is 22% of the Bretton Woods institution’s budget, while Nigeria contributes $9.9 Million, which is 0.14%.
I believe that a country’s place in the international community must be earned…and should be likewise forfeited if it becomes unworthy (the [British] Commonwealth and the African Union [AU], expel unworthy members as the latter has just done to Guinea Bissau following the coup there last week).
There are two currencies that should buy a country this place; one is money (the more of it the better), and the other is good behavior and a good internationalist heart. The better if all these elements come in one package. So countries that contribute more to a membership organisation like the World Bank should have a greater say in appointing the leadership and the divvying up its spending than those that don’t.
The countries that want a place at the High Table where the pie is being sliced should pay for it. Nigeria is the world’s eight largest exporter of oil. Cruel and idiotic military rule, and venal and corrupt vote-stealing governments since 2000, though, has blighted this great country. If it were better governed, Nigeria could afford to contribute $1 Billion to the World Bank (after all, that is just 20% of what one of its abominable military dictators, Sani Abacha, allegedly stole and stashed away as change for a rainy in foreign banks).
If that had been the case, Okonjo-Iweala might easily have become World Bank chief yesterday. Letting countries that don’t want to fork out the bill for the international communion enjoy its choicest trappings would be corrupting. If you can be a shambolic and corrupt state, but your national still becomes head of the World Bank, what kind of message would that send? A terrible one. It would create a moral hazard, and undermine the incentive for countries to better themselves in the eyes of the world.
Many Africans, who are interested in matters of power and influence, will know that in the West African region Nigeria plays the bully role that America does in the world.
West Africa has an economic community (ECOWAS), and whenever any country in the region becomes troublesome and heads needs to be knocked, it puts together its armies (ECOMOG) to deal with it. But really, it’s Nigeria that has the deep pockets in ECOWAS, so it pays most of the money to keep it going.
And the ECOWAS or ECOMOG forces are usually Nigerian in all but name. In part, in addition to the money, this is because Nigeria has a larger population than all the other West African countries put together. The total population of ECOWAS is about 290 million. Nigeria alone is 160 million – that is 55%!
When Nigeria says, “jump”, most of ECOWAS can often do no better than ask, “how high”? When Nigeria unleashes its military, West Africa takes to the tall grass.
Nigeria, especially during the rule of former-General Olusegun Obasanjo, played the same dominant US-style role in the African Union. The AU is really a hopelessly run organisation. Its most important and prestigious organ is the Peace & Security Department. It is the one that pays for peacekeeping and all that stuff. Nearly 90 percent of its budget is paid for by, mostly, western countries. Free German cash is building its new headquarters building.
The AU recently opened a fabulous headquarters building in Addis Ababa. One of the most impressive office blocks anywhere in Africa, it was a gift of about $200 million from the “Chinese people to the people of Africa”. At the Summit held there a few days after the opening, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame expressed the embarrassment of many, when he said the new headquarters was a symbol of what is wrong with Africa. We can’t come together and raise enough money to build even a headquarters for ourselves.
Most African countries are in arrears to the AU by between six to 10 years. The contributions fell behind so badly, that to save the organisation it was decided some years ago that the countries with big bank accounts should shoulder the burden and pay 15 of the AU budget. So Nigeria was billed 15%, South Africa 15%, Egypt 15%, Libya 15%, and Algeria 15%. The remaining 25% was distributed to the other 47 African countries – and they were still dead beats!
What then happened is that the slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi would get on his plane, and hop around Africa whenever a summit was approaching, pay the debts of several of the delinquent countries, give some of the leaders envelopes stuffed with over $500,000 then go the Summit and demand that they vote for his every whim. Whenever he lost the vote, he would storm out in a huff or throw tantrums.
So in Africa, Nigeria plays by the deep-pockets-will-go-to-heaven principle, but expected that it would turn out different for the World Bank job. That was naïve.
Which only leaves us with the question of who should be the next Chairperson of the African Union. The present incumbent, Gabon’s Mr Jean Ping, is locked in a fight for the position with South Africa’s Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of the country’s president Jacob Zuma.
They tied at the first vote, so Ping is continuing in an interim capacity until the second round ballot. Gabon contributes peanuts to the AU, so it is nonsensical to me that he should still be in the race against Dlamini-Zuma, when its South Africa that is paying his salary. This is where we get it wrong in Africa. Tin pot dictatorships that don’t honour even their most modest obligations, get the same voice as the countries that do. It is one of the many reasons the AU is always broke.
The job should go to Dlamini-Zuma. She survived marriage to the philandering and polygamous Zuma, she should find being AU chairperson a breeze.
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