Senegal’s Makhtar Diop to head International Finance Corporation

By Jeune Afrique

Posted on Monday, 22 February 2021 10:39
Makhtar Diop, in 2015 © Bruno Levy for JA

The new head of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister organisation of the World Bank dedicated to the private sector, will be an African.

Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s most recent vice president for infrastructure, has been chosen to succeed Frenchman Philippe Le Houérou as head of the International Finance Corporation.

According to several sources, the selection committee – chaired by Mari Pangestu and responsible for evaluating candidates to take over the reins of the IFC – has delivered its verdict.

In a meeting at the World Bank’s Washington headquarters on 17 February, the committee submitted a short-list of three people to David Malpass, president of the World Bank. One of the names on the list was Makhtar Diop, the former Senegalese finance minister.

READ MORE Philippe Le Houérou (IFC): ‘Intra-African trade could increase by 52%’

Malpass then submitted Diop’s name to the board of directors for consideration, in accordance with the statutes of the Bretton Woods institution. We contacted Diop, who did not confirm this information at the time this article was written.

Approached by the AfDB in 2015

The appointment – which was made public on 18 February – represents a great achievement for the Senegalese leader, who has been forced to “pump the brakes” for half a decade.

Diop, former President Abdoulaye Wade’s finance minister and the first Francophone vice president of the World Bank (2012-2018), had been expected to run as president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in the 2015 election.

READ MORE African banks may wait until 2024 to return to pre-crisis revenues – Sérgio Pimenta, IFC

President Macky Sall’s teams had, however, alerted the World Bank – which had temporarily removed Diop from his duties at Bretton Woods – out of fear that him travelling to the continent prior to the election would be perceived as an attempt by the World Bank to intervene in an African election.

He resigned a few days later and was reappointed to the World Bank, while Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s minister of agriculture and rural development, was nominated head of the AfDB.

Development challenges

Since July 2018, Diop had been the World Bank’s vice president for infrastructure. He was also in charge of the energy and extractive industries, transport and digital development, infrastructure financing and public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Within this framework, he oversaw the World Bank’s attempts to fill the infrastructure gap in emerging and developing economies, while developing sustainable solutions.

During his previous tenure as head of the African region, he oversaw a record-breaking $70bn in commitments to address the continent’s major development challenges. These included expanding access to affordable and sustainable energy, promoting the economic empowerment of women and youth and fostering the conditions necessary for innovation and new technologies to flourish.

An economist by training, Diop began his career in the banking sector before joining the IMF and then the World Bank.

A crazy week for Africans

Since his departure – as of 1 October – which was announced on social media in June 2020, the potential successors to Philippe Le Houérou have been numerous.

In fact, the names of several African leaders were put forward as possible successors. Like that of Cameroonian Vera Songwe, who, since her departure from the IFC, has been serving as the secretary-general of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

READ MORE World Bank: debt relief needed to protect African informal sector

Another profile mentioned was that of Ivorian Thierry Tanoh. He previously served as vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Europe at IFC as well as the group chief executive of Ecobank, before joining President Ouattara’s government. However, Tanoh has not confirmed the rumours that he was being considered for this position.

In any case, both Nigerian economist Ngozi Onkojo-Iweala’s appointment as the new director-general of the World Trade Organisation on 15 February and Diop’s to the head of the influential financing institution have been a huge victory for the African continent.

Translation: Congratulations to my sister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala), appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. She is the first woman and African to take the helm of the WTO. This is excellent news for the world of international trade.

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