US President Barack Obama (2nd R) announces the nomination of Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim (2nd L) for president of the World Bank as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner look on Friday. – Photo by AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday named the president of a prestigious Ivy League college, Jim Yong Kim, to lead the World Bank, in a race challenged by developing country candidates.

“It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency,” Obama said flanked by Kim, a Korean-American and the head of Dartmouth College.

“Jim has spent more than two decades working to improve conditions in developing countries around the world,” the president said, citing Jim's fight against HIV/AIDS and work at the World Health Organization.

Obama said the World Bank's mission of lifting nations from poverty to prosperity “makes the world stronger and more secure for everybody.

“That is why the World Bank is so important. And that is why the leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role the development plays in the world, and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed.

“I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission than Doctor Jim Kim.” Obama also was flanked by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had been rumored to have been under consideration for the job, despite her repeated denials she was interested.

The South Korean-born Kim is a Harvard-trained physician and former director of the department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, according to his biographies provided by the White House and Dartmouth.

He became the president of Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, in July 2009.

Born in 1959 in Seoul, Kim moved with his family to the United States at the age of five and grew up in Muscatine, Iowa.

Kim earned a medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School in 1991 and a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University in 1993.

The United States's selection of Kim to lead the 187-nation development lender makes him an instant favorite to get the bank's top job.

Thanks to a tacit agreement, the United States usually appoints an American to head the World Bank and Europe usually names a European to head the International Monetary Fund.

But that pact has triggered outrage from developing and emerging economies seeking greater representation to reflect their rising contributions to the global economy.

The successful candidate in the race will succeed World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who announced in February he was stepping down at the end of his term in June.

The nomination deadline closes at 6 pm (2200 GMT) Friday.

Earlier Friday, Nigeria's finance minister joined the race for the top World Bank job, backed by Africa's leading economies in a push for greater influence at global financial bodies dominated by rich nations.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, flanked by counterparts from South Africa and Angola, unveiled her candidacy at a press conference in Pretoria, putting the weight of Africa's biggest economy and its two biggest oil producers behind her bid.

Former Colombian finance minister and central bank chief, Jose Antonio Ocampo, announced his candidacy Wednesday.

American economist Jeffrey Sachs withdrew his self-declared candidacy Friday after the Obama announcement nomination and endorsed Jim.

“Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB,” Sachs tweeted.

“I support him 100 per cent. I thank all who supported me and know they'll be very pleased with today's news.” A candidate must be presented by the Bank's 25 executive directors, or by governors through the director representing them on the executive board.

The World Bank said that if there are more than three candidates, it will release a short list of three candidates but did not indicate the timing of the publication.

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