Following Robert Zoellick’s indication to step down as President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank), at the end of his 5-year term in June 2012, on March 2, prominent development economist, Special Advisor on MDGs to the UN Secretary-General, and Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, 58, threw his hat into the ring. I believe his candidature has plenty of merit both for Nigeria in particular, and for the world at large.

However, given the exclusivity with which Americans have occupied that crucial global development management office since the institution was created in 1945, it is relevant to hear calls to now allow a non-American, and preferably someone from the emerging economies to be given a shot. I agree with this reform-driven desire. But then, at the same time, another major reform aspect which has often been undermined is that those who have been appointed World Bank President in the past have mostly been Wall Street bankers or Washington bureaucrats and politicians with very little expertness on actual development challenges and issues.

Professor Jeff Sachs’ candidature is a paradigm shift from that coterie. He possesses the requisite professional capacity and wide-ranging international experience needed to lead the World Bank at this point in time. Besides, he is a Washington outsider and a technocratic maverick.

As a student of Development Studies and a concerned Nigerian and African, I have scrutinised and believe strongly that Prof. Sachs’ World Bank presidency will be good for Nigeria. During the recent nationwide crisis that greeted the removal of the fuel subsidy for instance, on separate occasions, he spent valuable time tweet-chatting with a few Nigerian activists and making his views known on the issue. I was privileged to be one such Nigerian. In my January 8, 2012 chat with him, he pointedly said: “I believe the [Nigerian] government didn’t prepare [the fuel subsidy removal policy] well… I support OccupyNigeria’s fight for clean and honest government.” Sachs added: “I am a fan of Nigeria’s civil society and no friend of corruption… Keep up your efforts for good governance.” You can see the full chat here:

The venerated economics professor’s views were as straightforward as his openness and candour were remarkable. Despite his very busy schedule, Prof. Sachs devoted that much time with me to make those sterling points on issues in Nigeria. Very few Nigerians in such high positions of authority will so humble themselves and speak with the forthrightness that Sachs did.

While I am not an advocate of dependency on aid, it is important to underscore that the World Bank has gone beyond just being an instrument for it. Indeed, Prof. Sachs is himself opposed to increases in foreign aid. He prefers a judicious and systematic management of the Bank’s existing resources. Meantime, the Bank’s highly technical assistance to boosting Nigeria’s agriculture, for instance, is something to cherish particularly given how much great benefit our economy can reap from that vital sector. Also, the Bank is leading many climate-change mitigation initiatives across the globe which we will do well to be part of. To sustain and multiply these positive efforts, the World Bank needs someone with the hands-on experience like Jeffrey Sachs!

Pending much-needed broader reforms of the global governance system, I reckon that US President Barack Obama, who has the prerogative to nominate the World Bank President before an election by the Bank’s Board of Directors, had pledged during his 2008 campaign to undertake a multilateral approach to global affairs as against his predecessor’s ruthless unilateralism. In that light, whilst Obama has welcomed the emerging nations, admired their rise and supported the G20 as a major decision-making forum for global economic affairs, he should use his lone World Bank presidency nomination to further reflect that dynamic multilateralism by nominating Sachs – a man who is more a citizen of the world than otherwise.

Prof. Sachs, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable development, has got an international reckoning and reputation unmatched by his peers whether in the West or in the emerging nations and President Obama will do both himself and the world a favour by nominating Sachs. Sachs has made Obama’s job even easier by embarking on what the BBC describes as “an unusually public campaign [for the job].” Sachs is not resting on his laurels. He is pragmatically reaching out to nations and other World Bank stakeholders – literally campaigning for them to back his bid – and they are responding positively.

The world has reached a point where we cannot allow mediocrity in the governance of institutions that have a huge bearing on, especially, the survival of many of the world’s poor. We must give leadership to those who truly have the heart and the head to make the difference. For this present World Bank presidency purpose, it is Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs who fittingly and unequivocally squares up!

To further appreciate why Prof. Sachs deserves to be the next World Bank President, I invite you to read these:


Posted March 6, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Foreign Affairs


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  1. Actually. This is the time to give leadership to those who have the heart and the head to make a difference! Mr sachs achievements and commitment to development speaks good of him. I hope he will be given the chance to make some needed changes in the world bank that will move the world forward!

  2. Merit has overtaken every other consideration. Sach’s aspiration without an iota doubt is in line with that.

    • Absolutely, my brother. Merit should be the single most important determining factor in who becomes the next World Bank President. Merit is clearly on Prof. Sachs’ side. I hope Obama sees that and wades off any special Wall Street or Washington interests on the issue.

  3. I concur with you Raymond.

    Emmanuel S, Ngwa
  4. I remember Jeff Sachs conversation with my brother Raymond and I can’t agree more the man is different from the other breed. I for one knew very well Mr Sachs has Nigeria’s development at heart contrary to what many people believed when he was misquote by quite a number of Nigerians over his comments on the removal of subsidy in Nigeria. I will not only sign the petition for Obama’s endorsement of Mr Sach I ll go forward if there’s anything I can do.

    Ahmed Aliko Ahmed
    • Thanks, my brother. You’re very correct. I appreciate your effort. You can share the petition link with others and urge them to sign it. We’re mobilising many signatures from around the world.

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