The US nominee to lead the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, launched his global campaign in Ethiopia Thursday, while Nigerian rival Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the vote was a test of rich nations' "hypocrisy."
The US Treasury Department said that Kim met with the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission, Erastus Mwencha, in Addis Ababa, in the first stop of what the Obama administration has dubbed a "global listening tour."
Kim, a Korean-American physician known for his work on global health issues, "solicited the AU's priorities for Africa's economic integration and development" and "discussed how the World Bank can work in partnership with the AU to support these goals," the department said in a statement.
Kim is scheduled to travel through April 9 to a number of countries that are important players in the Bank: China, Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil and Mexico.
The US nominee, currently president of the prestigious Ivy League school Dartmouth College, is the favorite to win the presidency.
The United States is the Bank's largest stakeholder and has always chosen its president since the lender was founded in 1944.
Under a mutually serving understanding, Europe has always put a European at the helm of the International Monetary Fund, the Bank's sibling institution.
That arrangement is under fire from developing countries seeking fairer representation at the Bretton Woods institutions to reflect their rising contributions to the global economy.
Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister and a former World Bank managing director, warned in a newspaper interview that the choice of the successor for outgoing president Robert Zoellick would reveal the truth of rich nations' promises.
"I would really hold the Bretton Woods shareholders to their word, that they want to change the way business is being done and want a merit-based, open and transparent process for the presidency," Okonjo-Iweala told the Financial Times.
"I just want to see whether people just say things with their mouth that they don't mean and what's the level of hypocrisy," she said. "So we want to test that."
For the first time in history, the US nominee to head the Bank is being challenged. Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Colombian former finance minister, also is seeking the job.
The World Bank is expected to interview the candidates next month: Okonjo-Iweala on April 9, Ocampo on April 10 and Kim on April 11.
With Zoellick, a former US diplomat, stepping down at the end of his five-year term in June, the Bank says it wants to announce his successor by its April 20-22 meetings with the IMF.© ANP/AFP