WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. pick to take over at mid-year as head of the World Bank, launches a world tour on Tuesday to seek support for his candidacy.
Kim, a Korean-American, will be contesting two nominees from emerging market countries - Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo - for the World Bank’s top job.
The Treasury Department said Kim will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, Brasilia and Mexico City between March 27 and April 9 to meet heads of state, finance ministers and others to talk about priorities for the World Bank.
Kim, president of Ivy League university Dartmouth College, was born in South Korea, but moved to the United States as a boy.
Treasury calls the trip a “listening tour” by Kim, the physician and anthropologist named by the Obama administration last Friday as the U.S. pick to succeed Robert Zoellick when he steps down in June.
By tradition, an American has headed the World Bank since its founding after World War Two, but emerging economies are increasingly open about challenging that convention.
Okonjo-Iweala was nominated by African powerhouses Nigeria, South Africa and Angola and could garner more support for her candidacy from the emerging markets bloc. On Monday, African Union finance leaders unanimously endorsed her candidacy.
The United States is a major contributor to the World Bank and can likely count on backing from several European countries for its nominee Kim, which could make it an uphill battle for Okonjo-Iweala.
In an interview with Reuters, however, Okonjo-Iweala expressed hope the World Bank’s 187 member nations would hold to their pledge for an open, merit-based process.
A decision on a new leader for the poverty-fighting organization is expected to be announced by the time the World Bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, hold semiannual meetings in Washington on April 20-22.