'I feel optimistic about Africa'.

Author:Yedder, Omar Ben
Position:Interview
 
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Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the erudite pride of Africa, who boasts numerous honours and awards, now sits pretty in one of the world's high-profile posts--managing director of the World Bank.

During her illustrious career, this daughter of Africa has won the admiration of many. The UK's Financial Times named her African Finance Minister of the Year 2005, Time magazine named her one of the top heroes in its 2004 annual poll, Euromoney magazine gave her the accolade of Global Finance Minister of the Year 2005, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, has called her "a brilliant reformer". She has served as both finance and foreign minister in her native Nigeria as well as holding the post of vice-president of the World Bank before taking up her Nigerian posts.

When World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, appointed the Harvard-educated polymath to the current position, he said: "Ngozi brings a unique set of skills and experience to the World Bank Group. As an outstanding minister of finance and foreign minister in Nigeria, Ngozi helped lead the country's reform programme on issues of fiscal prudence, transparency of government accounts, good governance, and anti-corruption. She led Nigeria's quest for debt relief and helped her country obtain an unprecedented US$18bn write-off from the Paris Club.

"Ngozi was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever Sovereign Credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor's. She is an internationally respected world leader. In addition, she knows the World Bank Group well from her 21 years of service."

In this interview, she tells New African's Omar Ben Yedder where her heart is in her new challenging post.

New African: My first question is probably quite an obvious one. Why did you go back to the World Bank? Is there something you want to particularly do there?

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Okonjo-Iweala: Well I think, you know, it is an opportune moment to be at the Bank, because you've got a new president, Robert Zoellick, who has a vision of trying to move the Bank in doing things in new ways and doing things differently. He wants to concentrate on trying to find new instruments and products for the poorest countries. He wants to work on middle income countries, on global public goods. There is a six-point agenda which is very attractive, but most of all within the poorest countries there is a chance to focus on some of the real bottlenecks that are keeping the countries from growing. For example, you look at sub-Saharan Africa, for the first time it is performing quite well. You have all the...

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