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Africans in Charge of Global Institutions have Helped Overcome Racist Stereotypes

The world’s big multilateral institutions are always keen to trumpet their global outlook. Yet in one area their global credentials have not always matched up: leadership. Most of the bosses of multilateral institutions have been white men. Sub-Saharan Africans, especially, have been overlooked. Until 2017 only one had led a big multilateral organisation: Kofi Annan, who ran the un, which rotates its top job by region, from 1997 to 2006. Today Africans lead several global institutions. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian, has steered the World Health Organisation (WHO) through the pandemic. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian, heads the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Makh tar Diop, a Senegalese, presides over an investment portfolio worth about $64bn at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the semi-independent arm of the World Bank that invests in private firms. A stitch-up gives the top jobs at the World Bank and IMF to America and Europe. But for just the second time a sub-Saharan African, Antoinette Sayeh of Liberia, is a deputy managing director of the IMF. Each is highly qualified. Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, Mr Diop and Ms. Sayeh were all finance ministers and had all worked at the World Bank. Dr. Tedros was health minister and then foreign minister. That they all have big jobs at once is partly by chance. But there are signs that governments have deliberately sought Africans to lead big institutions.