Written and Researched by Robert Asketill
An international scramble for the most powerful job in development economics is under way after Robert Zoellick announced that he would step down as president of the World Bank when his first term expires in June. The post is one of the most coveted in Washington, and speculation on who will fill it has so far focused on heavyweight figures from American politics including Hillary Clinton and the former White House chief economic adviser Larry Summers. Lael Brainard, US Under-Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs is also said to be a contender, though her position is complicated by her role as head of the search committee for Mr Zoellick’s successor.
Mr Zoellick, a President Bush appointee, had struggled to forge a comfortable relationship with the Obama Administration. But no matter Washington has been cushioned in a “gentlemen’s agreement” that today, and long overtime, has attracted growing criticism from the emerging markets, with governments from countries such as Brazil calling for an end to America’s stranglehold on the position.
As for Africa they are today seeing the mighty power of the “American” World Bank as an institution to keep them in the jungle and one dare says that with the name of Hillary Clinton looming to take position of head of the World Bank, they will be thinking more of a “Jungle Complex”. Make no mistake, Africans are getting tired of the World Bank isolation –they see a bag of cement in one country costing three times more than in the country next door, just because a government with World Bank influence wants to protect a local cement company and its private owner.
Certainly trade within Africa won’t become truly free overnight: it took Europe some 50 years to come together as a “single market.” And with 48 nation-states south of the Sahara, there will always be a few refusing to join economic groupings; yet the World Bank Group boast that they work to reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development more aggressively than ever before, making a lasting difference in the lives of nearly 6 billion people around the world.
But as one sees it, thinking for instance of a remote border crossing between two African countries, say Uganda and the newly created state of South Sudan , one can visualize a tired out elderly lady carrying an impossibly-heavy load of eggs on her head, being harassed by custom officials with their frightening guns. The eggs are the produce from her own plot and those of other villagers after the labour of having to purchase the growers-mash and later poultry meal that are only available in nations in Africa with World Bank help. Selling them in the neighboring country is her only chance to make a living. But either she pays the officials or she won’t be let through. She pays: price, one egg.