Our competitive advantage is a diverse and inclusive workforce

The World Bank Group leadership is committed to giving nationals of sub‭-‬Saharan African countries an even greater part to play. 


Sean McGrath is the World Bank Group’s Human Resources Vice President. About to launch a multi-city road-show in order to attract more Africans to work within the institution, he talked to Stephen Williams about the project.

Stephen Williams: You are about to launch a recruitment drive aimed at increasing the number of subSaharan Africa  (SSA) nationals working for the World Bank. What is the thinking behind this strategy?

Sean McGrath: The World Bank Group leadership is committed to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce, in which nationals of sub‭-‬Saharan African countries have an even greater part to play in achieving the Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We are actively working to be an ‘Employer of Choice’ for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) nationals. We believe that empowering others and respecting differences is much more than part of our institution’s core values – it makes good business sense on three key fronts. First, a diverse staff mirrors the diversity of the clients we serve and the partners we work alongside in more than 180 member countries around the world, and that reflection is key to our credibility as an institution seeking equality and opportunity for all.

Second, it has been demonstrated that a diverse staff stimulates the creativity and innovation our clients expect, drawn from the collective energy of individual experience, knowledge and perspectives. Third, as the world’s leading development organisation, a diverse staff also allows us to attract, retain and grow the finest talent from the broadest span of different backgrounds possible. In short, if we succeed in leveraging the diversity of our talent, then the solutions that we offeذ‭r through our projects, programmes and assistance‭ ‬are those that will meet our clients’ development goals. Finally, it is a lot of fun working with people from different countries.

NA: Is it envisaged new African employees will be working on African issues and economies?

SMG: New employees will work not only on African issues and economies, but they will also contribute to issues and economies in other regions in line with our global scope of operations. Our headquarters are in Washington, D.C., USA, but more than a third of our staff is based in 100+ regional country offices worldwide. Positions may be located in any of our World Bank Group offices within our six regions (Africa, Latin America & Caribbean, East Asia & Pacific, Europe & Central Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and South Asia).

NA: Currently, how many of the World Bank’s employees are from SSA?

SMG: Of the 15,700 staff, approximately 2,063 are SSA nationals. This recruitment drive is aimed at increasing the number of SSA staff across the organisation over the next year.

NA: What are the skills and capabilities you are seeking?

SMG: The Bank Group is continually looking for experienced professionals ذ generally with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience‭ ‬and with a demonstrated record of professional and academic achievement (Masters or PhDs preferred). A broad understanding of development issues and international work experience, preferably at the policy level, is extremely beneficial.

Our multidisciplinary staff specialise in economics, public policy, international finance, education, energy, social sciences, environmental sciences, and many, many other fields. This recruitment drive is aimed at placing candidates into professional and technical career paths focused on providing clients with leading expertise, problem solving and knowhow on their most complex challenges.

A broad understanding of international development issues as well as global and/or regional knowledge of developing country issues, and international work experience, preferably at the policy level, is desirable.

Work experience in the private sector is also valued, and is viewed as a way of renewing and updating the World Bank’s skills base and improving diversity. In addition, as one of the World Bank’s strategic assets is the knowledge it creates and disseminates, we are looking for people who bring creativity, innovation and growth to the World Bank in order to provide our clients with cutting-edge solutions to their development challenges.

Staff are expected to be globally mobile and willing to travel and/or relocate. If you are a highly motivated individual who possesses a passion for international development, are skilled in areas relevant to the World Bank Group’s operations, and are a team player, we would like to hear from you. Women are strongly encouraged to apply.

NA: I understand that you will be conducting road shows in the World Bank’s regional hubs of Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa, and also reaching out to possible candidates in the Diasporas of North America (Washington) and Europe (Paris and London). How would candidates, who perhaps live elsewhere, be able to apply for a career at the World Bank?

SMG: We welcome applications from nationals of subSaharan African countries residing anywhere in the world, as we do not want to miss out on any talent. We will harness technologies like video conferencing and social media to connect with those in other parts of the globe. Interested candidates are also advised to bookmark our career website and to apply for other relevant vacancies.

NA: What is the process going to involve? Will you be shortlisting candidates for additional consideration/interviews?

SMG: Once a candidate submits an application, it will be reviewed by our talent acquisition team as well as hiring managers. We will evaluate the candidate’s profile against the qualification requirements listed in the profile description. Successful candidates will be shortlisted and invited for an interview in one of the locations we will be visiting. We intend to complete the recruitment process as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The main purpose of the road show is to meet candidates where they currently reside, or in close proximity to their residence.

NA: Expanding the diversity of the World Bank’s workforce is obviously desirable. Does this policy include those candidates of African descent?

SMG: It is indeed. We are also seeking to recruit and retain African-Americans and Caribbean nationals. They are both important demographics that we want to reach.

NA: What are the World Bank’s language requirements?

SMG: In addition to proficiency in English, language skills in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish are often required and are therefore highly desired.

NA: Are you recruiting for all five institutions within the World Bank Group?

SMG: The primary focus is on the World Bank (comprising the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association); we are also recruiting for the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

This is the first‭ ‬large-scale recruitment effort focusing on African nationals and we hope to continue to build on its success into the future; this will evolve based on the needs of the business. 

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