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How Senegalese economist Makhtar Diop landed IFC’s top job

By Aurélie M'Bida
Posted on Wednesday, 31 March 2021 11:16

Makhtar Diop, the new head of IFC. Here in Paris in December 2015. Bruno Levy for J.A.

At the age of 60, Senegalese economist Makhtar Diop is taking over as head of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, World Bank Group). This achievement is the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance.

“Right choice, right time.” This simple tweet – written by Donald Kaberuka, a former president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) – particularly touched its recipient. It was just one of many other expressions of support that appeared on social media on 18 February.

On that day, Senegalese economist Makhtar Diop was officially introduced as the new managing director and vice-president of IFC – the World Bank’s private sector arm. He is the first African to head the IFC, which is the world’s largest international development institution.

A long process

After a long recruitment process (around 100 applications), the 60-year-old economist was chosen to replace Philippe Le Houérou as of 1 March 2021. The announcement of Le Houérou’s departure in June 2020 unleashed a ‘Who’s Who’ list of favourable candidates in Washington and in African capitals.

The list included Cameroonian economist Vera Songwe and Ivorian minister Thierry Tanoh, both former IFC staff, as well as Franco-Ivorian finance titan Tidjane Thiam.

Thiam would eventually sit on the ad hoc selection committee in charge of finding the ideal candidate, made up of six people from the Bretton Woods institution and chaired by Mari Pangestu.

It was a long process, impeded by the constraints of the ongoing health crisis, that concluded on 17 February when Diop’s candidacy was validated by the institution’s board.