Ajay Banga, Indian-origin World Bank President, named in ‘Great Immigrants’ 2023 list

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Ajay Banga, the President of the World Bank, has been named by a prestigious philanthropic organisation to its annual “Great Immigrants” list of honourees who have enriched and strengthened America and its democracy through their contributions and actions.

Banga, who became World Bank chief in June 2023, is the first-ever Indian American to lead the institution. He is the only honouree from India in this year’s list of ‘Great Immigrants’ by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

With over 30 years of experience in key positions, 63-year-old Banga is expected to usher in transformative policies at the World Bank to combat poverty and address climate change, opening opportunities for people around the globe, a statement issued by Carnegie on Wednesday said.

During a fireside chat, Carnegie said Banga offered some reflections on how diversity helped him succeed as a leader: “At the end of the day, if you surround yourself with people who look like you, who walk like you and talk like you, and grew up in the same places you did and worked with you in your prior jobs, then you will have a sense of comfort of hiring people around you who have that familiarity. But you will also have the same blind spots. You will miss the same trends. You will miss the same opportunities.”

Banga started his career in India, spending 13 years at Nestle India and two at PepsiCo. In 1996, he joined Citigroup, eventually leading the Asia-Pacific region as CEO.

Later moving to the US, Banga served as president and CEO of Mastercard for 12 years before being named executive chairman. Under his leadership, Mastercard launched the Center for Inclusive Growth, which advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world, the statement said.

Prior to his appointment to the World Bank, Banga was the vice-chairman at General Atlantic. He is also a co-founder of the Cyber Readiness Institute and served as vice-chair of the Economic Club of New York.

Among numerous honours, he was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Padma Shri Award by the President of India, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honour.

Every Fourth of July, which is celebrated as America’s Independence Day, the Carnegie Corporation of New York honours a group of “remarkable” Americans — all naturalised citizens — “who have enriched and strengthened our nation and our democracy through their contributions and actions”.

This year, the corporation honours 35 individuals from 33 countries and a wide range of backgrounds. Among the honourees are individuals who have fostered opportunities for others through their work as educators, mentors, philanthropists, job creators, public servants, storytellers, and advocates.

“The Great Immigrants initiative is a tribute to the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant who, like these honourees, found success in America, contributed enormously to his adopted country, and inspired others to do the same,” said Dame Louise Richardson, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Richardson is a naturalised citizen who first came to the United States from Ireland as a graduate student. “The 35 naturalised citizens honoured today embody that tradition, reminding us that the contributions of immigrants make our country more vibrant and our democracy more resilient,” she said.

Who are the recipients of the honour this year?

This year’s honourees include Vietnamese-born Academy Award-winning actor Ke Huy Quan, Chilian-born actor Pedro Pascal, Director-General of World Trade Organization Nigerian-born Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, US Congressman Ted Lieu who was born in Taiwan, Grammy Award-Winning Singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo who was born in Benin, Polish-born Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Cornell University and Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann and Guido Imbens, born in the Netherlands and Professor of Economics, Stanford University, and Nobel Laureate.

Carnegie Corporation of New York is a leading philanthropic foundation established by Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie and is now led by Irish immigrant Dame Louise Richardson. It celebrates the crucial role of naturalised citizens in making America a land of opportunity for all.