US candidate Ajay Banga poised to be World Bank chief unopposed

Friday March 31 2023
World Bank presidential nominee Ajay Banga

Executive Chairman of Mastercard Ajay Banga listens during a meeting in Washington DC. He is the only candidate nominated for the World Bank head position. PHOTO | ALEX WONG | GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA VIA AFP


American Ajay Banga was the only candidate nominated for the World Bank head position, the bank confirmed Thursday paving the way for his likely appointment in the coming months.

"In accordance with established procedures, the executive directors will conduct a formal interview with the candidate in Washington DC and expect to conclude the presidential selection in due course," the bank said in a statement.

Under an unwritten arrangement, the US has historically held the presidency of the Washington-based development lender while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been run by a European.

Read: IMF revises global growth projections

Banga, 63, was born in India and is a naturalized US citizen.

President Joe Biden announced his nomination last month to succeed David Malpass, who is stepping away early from a presidency clouded by questions over his climate stance.

US President Joe Biden


Banga’s business career

Ajaypal Singh Banga was born into a Sikh family in the Indian city of Pune in the state of Maharashtra.

Banga grew up in different parts of the country due to his father's job as an army officer, before getting his start in business at the Indian subsidiary of Nestle in the early 1980s. 

He went on to have a successful business career in India and later relocated to the US.

Banga ran the payments company MasterCard for more than a decade between 2010 and 2021. He has also served on the boards of the American Red Cross, Kraft Foods and Dow Inc.

He is currently vice chairman at private equity firm General Atlantic.

In a statement supporting his nomination, Biden said Banga's business career meant he was uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank.

He highlighted Banga's critical experience mobilizing public-private resources to tackle the most urgent challenges of our time, including climate change.

Banga seeks private funding

Banga previously told reporters that he wanted to see greater private sector funding to help tackle financing for global problems.

"There is not enough money without the private sector," he said. 

Read: Horn ministers seek private funding

Since his nomination, Banga has been on a US Treasury-backed "listening tour" of the bank's 189 member countries to drum up support for his candidacy.

“Banga's tour was well-received by member states,” an anonymous senior US Treasury official told AFP prior to Thursday's announcement. 

“His strength as a candidate comes from his background working in emerging markets and his experience of running large international institutions,” the official told AFP

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the country’s congressional leaders earlier this week that she expects Banga to be confirmed as the bank's next leader.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. PHOTO | KEVIN DIETSCH | GETTY IMAGES | AFP

No challenger

Although no other country had publicly declared a challenger to Banga, it was unclear before Thursday morning if any of the other member states had chosen to privately nominate a candidate for president.

No women were nominated for the post despite the World Bank strongly encouraging applications. 

All of the presidents approved by the organisation since its inception in the 1940s have been men.

Despite being the sole nominee, Banga must still undergo a formal interview process in front of the World Bank's board.

An announcement is unlikely to come before May, according to two people familiar with the matter.

While the World Bank nominee has historically been an American citizen, a growing number of countries have challenged the unwritten arrangement in recent years.

The sole nomination of Banga suggests most countries still support US leadership of the development lender.