Accra, Ghana: Robert Zoellick, US President George W Bush’s nominee to run the World Bank, promised on 6 June 2007 to partner the world’s poorest continent as he began a two-week tour to rally support for his nomination.
Starting his tour in Ghana, Zoellick stressed his long association with Africa and his willingness to listen to and learn from a continent that has previously had to accept prescriptions for growth and development from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.
“The best way to look at this is a partnership, I have worked with sub-saharan Africa for over 20 years,” he said.
“In many countries you have a group of ministers who are extremely good, they have a good knowledge of what needs to be done and frankly I hope the World Bank can work with them to try and help them with their success, it can’t be done from the outside. It has to be done by the people of Africa, the question is how the World Bank and others can help,” he told reporters.
Zoellick, a former US trade representative, said he considered Africa to be “homeground where I feel I have a lot of friends in the world”.
If his nomination is approved, Zoellick will succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned last month amid an ethics scandal involving a high pay promotion for his girlfriend.
Zoellick has been close to US President George Bush and this has prompted concern about his independence in his new role.
“Obviously if I am selected to be president of the World Bank, you become an international official, you are no longer a national official, so I would be charged with the responsibilities by the board of the World Bank,” Zoellick said.
Zoellick met Ghana’s Vice-President Aliu Mahama and finance minister Kwadwo Baah Wiredu as well as non-governmental organisations and energy sector representatives.
Asked if he was seeking African support for his nomination during the tour, he said: “I haven’t formally done that because most countries which I have talked with have been supportive.”
During a 24-hour stay in Ghana, Zoellick met with finance ministers from Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
Zoellick left Ghana on 6 June for Ethiopia. From there, he will travel to South Africa before heading to Europe and Latin America.
Zoellick is the only candidate and his bid is unlikely to be contested despite a 15 June deadline for nominations and a push by some developing nations to open the post to non-Americans.
The head of the World Bank is traditionally an American picked by the White House while Europe picks the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.