Immigrants’ diverse perspectives and experiences make us stronger, says the World Bank’s first-ever Indian American president
Ajay Banga, the newly elected Indian American president of the World Bank figures among 35 naturalized citizens honored by Carnegie Corporation’s 2023 list of Great Immigrants “who have enriched and strengthened our society and our democracy.”
“As the newly elected president of the World Bank, Banga aims to lead the organization in tackling climate change and confronting the toughest challenges facing developing countries,” according to a press release from the New York based philanthropic foundation.
In June 2023, Banga became the new president of the World Bank, the first-ever Indian American to lead the institution, the release noted. Banga started his career in India, spending 13 years at Nestlé 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.
“With over 30 years of experience in key positions, 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,” the release stated.
In his opinion, “We need to find ways to embrace the value and talent immigrants have to offer — not the least of which is their diversity. Their diverse perspectives and experiences make us stronger.”
During a fireside chat, he 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.”
Prior to his appointment to the World Bank, Banga was vice chairman at General Atlantic. He is also cofounder of the Cyber Readiness Institute and served as vice chair of the Economic Club of New York.
Among numerous honors, he was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Padma Shri Award by the president of India, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Carnegie’s annual list celebrates the crucial role of naturalized citizens in making America a land of opportunity for all, the release stated. The 2023 Class of Great Immigrants is comprised of naturalized citizens from 33 countries and a wide range of backgrounds and fields.
“For generations, immigrants have come to the United States seeking opportunities for themselves and their families. Among this year’s honorees are individuals who have fostered opportunities for others through their work as educators, mentors, philanthropists, job creators, public servants, storytellers, and advocates,” the release stated.
“The Great Immigrants initiative is a tribute to the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant who, like these honorees, 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, and a naturalized citizen who first came to the United States from Ireland as a graduate student.
“The 35 naturalized citizens honored today embody that tradition, reminding us that the contributions of immigrants make our country more vibrant and our democracy more resilient.”