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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is eyeing another 5-year term in 2017. He is the first Bank chief to be personally accused of racism against black staff. Believed to have been endorsed for his first term by Hilary Clinton, Bank employees are freaking out about the possibility of having Kim at the helm for a further five years, which they fear would be a forgone conclusion if Clinton wins the US presidency.

On June 27, 2016, Breitbart News, a conservative news outlet, broke an “Exclusive” story titled, "Hillary Clinton's Handpicked World Bank Chief Accused of Overseeing 'Systemic' Racism."

The author, Patrick Howley, brought to light that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim "got his nomination from President Barack Obama in 2012 after Hillary Clinton ‘championed Jim as candidate,’ according to Paul Farmer, who was a co-founder with Kim of a health group that enjoys a working relationship with the Clinton Foundation.”

Howley further noted that “Kim’s World Bank is being accused of racism and also of whitewashing racism in internal diversity reports, which could complicate Clinton’s effort to present herself as a civil rights champion in this presidential campaign.” The issue, no doubt, is also complicating Kim’s reappointment hopes when his current term ends in 2017.

According to the April 27, 2016 issue of Foreign Policy, Kim “has conveyed his desire to be reappointed in 2017…  The next U.S. president (quite possibly Kim’s friend Hillary Clinton) will have a strong say in the matter."

World Bank employees are freaking out about the possibility of having him at the helm of the Bank for another five-year term, which they fear would be a forgone conclusion if Secretary Clinton wins the US presidency.

Paul Cadario, a retired senior World Bank official and an ardent supporter of Secretary Clinton’s bid for the White House, recently quoted an unnamed current World Bank official as saying “Trump is our only hope for getting rid of Kim.” Cadario added: “I was shocked. And then even I saw his point." 

One of the issues that the majority of the Bank staff is critical of Kim is his haywire quota-based racial recruitment policy that is dubbed “affirmative action on steroid.”

Indeed, the Kim administration has taken affirmative action to a whole new level and for all the wrong reasons. His race-based staff recruitment drive is specifically tailored for Sub Saharan Africans (Black Africans).

In 2015, his administration launched a widely orchestrated advertisement for “80+ vacancies to be filled by African nationals.” This was while the Bank was letting go over 500 staff (many of whom Americans) under his reorganization and staff restructuring reform.

In 2016, the Bank launched yet another “World Bank Group recruitment drive for African nationals”. The Bank’s website hyped the quota-based racial policy as “the first of its kind for the institution.”

At the face value the initiative may appear an effort to address underrepresentation of African nationals in the World Bank. But that is not the case. The initiative is widely criticized by the African staff in the World Bank. Comments on the Bank’s website also indicate that the initiative is seen as divisive by outsiders.

Rym Ghazzali commented: “I am wondering here why is this recruitment drive designated only to Sub Saharan. Isn't North Africa part of Africa as well? Attracting the best should be based on the merit and suitability of the profile not consider the geographical belonging as a primary-pass criteria.”

Similarly, Kolawole Adebayo, a Nigerian national, wrote: “There is no Sub Saharan Africa. Africa is North, West, Central, East and South. Whoever introduced that is not helping Africa at all.”

The question worth asking is: “Is there a need for affirmative action for Africans, Sub Saharan Africa or otherwise?” The answer is a resounding “No”, according to the Bank’s data.

In December 19, 2012, the Kim administration defended the Bank’s diversity record in a letter to US Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland stating: “We have no tolerance of discrimination of any kind. The Bank Group has a highly diverse workforce: staff come from more than 170 countries, two third of staff are from developing countries; more than 15 percent of staff are from Sub Saharan Africa…”

According to the World Bank data, Sub Saharan Africa accounts for 13.6 percent of the world population and 15 percent of the World Bank staff. If the Bank’s statements in the letter to Senator Mikulski stand as claimed, Sub Saharan Africa is over-represented not under-represented in the World Bank.

Irrespective of the over- or under-representation of Africans, the Bank’s own confidential memorandum underscores that “establishing quotas for the hiring of racial minorities” is not a solution for the Bank’s problem with race. What Sub Saharan Africans have been asking the Bank is “to treat qualified and experienced Blacks on a level playing field.”

Another World Bank report reiterated the same sentiment. The report highlighted: “Negative attitudes toward these initiatives [quota based recruitments for Blacks] are not limited to the groups presumably disadvantaged by the efforts. In interviews conducted during this study, staff from groups covered by employment targets made repeated statements such as ‘We never want to be tokens’ or ‘We want to be promoted based on competence, not a diversity profile.’”

Why is Kim hell bent on promoting affirmative action for Sub Saharan Africans? There are four reasons.

First, the problem in the World Bank is that Sub Saharan African staff are treated unfairly. Since 2012, Kim has been under enormous pressure to reform the Bank’s justice system to establish a system of accountability. His aggressive affirmative action policy is a distraction. It makes absolutely no sense to hire Sub Saharan Africans under a presidential affirmative action policy and then dehumanize them inside the World Bank. 

Second, Kim is the first World Bank president to be personally accused of racial discrimination. An explosive racial discrimination case that was leveled against him personally was settled after the Bank paid his accuser (his former Personal Assistant) a significant compensation package in a sealed deal.

The story was revealed in the NY Black Star News under the title “Diversity Challenges at the World Bank: How an Exceptional Confidential Assistant was Ousted by President Kim.”  His affirmative action policy seems to be aimed at offsetting the damage to his reputation.

Third, currently there are two cases of racial discrimination by two Sub-Saharan Africans leveled against Kim. Both have requested for external arbitration. The first case involves Dr. Yonas Biru, an Ethiopian national,  whose story is the subject of the aforementioned Breitbart article.

The blatant injustice has been condemned among others by Dr. Ben Carson, a Republican US Presidential Candidate, and Mr. Armstrong Williams, a conservative radio and TV personality. Dr. Ben wrote on his Facebook: “I am appalled by the World Bank. We need to hold them accountable.” Mr. Williams echoed the same sentiment: “The World Bank is the new bastion of racism. They truly give racism a new meaning.”  The second allegation against Kim is equally disturbing.

Kim’s Sub Saharan Africa-centered race based quota is designed to overshadow the two current cases pending against him. What African and other staff have been demanding is access to an independent adjudicative bodies to settle employment disputes, including racial discrimination cases. Kim is against such requests because he has reason to fear for himself.

The fourth objective is even more cynical. Kim needs the vote of every country for his confirmation in 2017, if re-nominated by the US president. Hiring 80+ Africans every year with a special recruitment drive is a PR stunt to win Africa’s unanimous vote.



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Comments (1)

  • Adj Mensah-Bonsu's picture
    Adj Mensah-Bonsu

    I find this article intellectually lazy with no supporting empirical evidence and quotes from openly right-wing party political opponents of the Hillary Clinton candidacy. Indeed the idea that World Bank staff (many of whom are not eligible to vote in the US elections in the first place) are clamouring to support an avowed racist and bigot like Trump in protest against systemic racism (which long preceded the current leader of the Bank) beggars belief. Please don't take readers for fools.

    Jul 29, 2016