David Malpass, tipped as Donald Trump’s man to lead the World Bank could be good news for Africa, though he is set to make lending more difficult
The White House choice of a conservative to lead the World Bank is no surprise, but David Malpass looks set to undo the legacy of former president Jim Jong Kim who resigned last month, three years before he was due to leave.
Korean-born Dr Kim was appointed by Barack Obama in 2012 and quickly imposed a ban on lending for projects using coal. In South Africa this decision hit the state-owned Eskom power monopoly which had to source funding elsewhere for its new plants, as did Botswana, India, China, Poland, Kenya, Tanzania and the Philippines.
Last year, Dr Kim extended the rule to oil and gas, with implications for Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique and the Middle East.
Mr Malpass, who describes himself as a free-market economist, agrees with Donald Trump on “beautiful clean coal” and that the US picks up too much of the bill for running the United Nations, NATO, and other institutions.
Once in charge, he would have the power to reign in a World Bank he claims has built up “mountains of debt without solving problems”.
Mr Malpass told a recent conference in Washington the bank had, “created an environment where their own growth ends up being as important as their clients’ growth.”
The bank’s biggest borrower is China, but Malpass said it made no sense lending to the world’s second-largest economy.
At the White House, press chief Sarah Sanders said Malpass would be, “a great choice,” describing him as “highly respected and a strong member of the team”.
Established in 1944, the bank’s mission was to rebuild Europe in wake of World War ll. The first loan went to France.
But this changed in the 1970s with more money to Asia, Africa and South America.
Lifting the ban on fossil fuel may be good news for Africa and especially India where power plants are undergoing the world’s largest conversion to clean coal, but if Malpass shrinks the overall size of the bank, it could make loans more difficult.
In Washington, Dr Sylvanus Ayeni is a retired neurosurgeon who has spent the past two decades travelling Africa and the US, lecturing on development.
Born in Nigeria, he said the World Bank needed to focus on electricity, but warned against free money.
“Africans also have a right to electricity. Not a solar lamp hanging in a hut, but industrial power that can bring jobs and factories. The kind we enjoy in the USA.”
Aid, he said, was not the answer. “Since 1960, Washington alone has donated more than a trillion dollars to Africa with little result. Some hit the mark, much of it was wasted, and billions have been stolen.
“We need projects with proper goals and timelines that can run at a profit large enough to pay back a loan. And we need conditions attached to make sure the money benefits people on the ground instead of wealthy and corrupt politicians who have left Africa as the world’s poorest continent while growing rich in the process.”
In 2017, Dr Ayeni’s book “Rescue Thyself” sent waves through global agencies when he exposed the level of waste and theft linked to aid and loans in Africa.
He has also called for change at the World Bank.
“The US, Europe and China used coal, oil and gas to build economies that let them lead the world. Surely Africa has a right to the same, but doing it cleanly.” he said.
On 1 February Dr Kim handed authority to acting president Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria, who also serves as CEO of the bank.
If approved by the board, Mr Malpass will assume control before Easter.