Ngozi Okonji Iweala

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. A handful of people end up making great impact in this life and only about a pinch of those hand full are women.

It’s very rare to see a woman changing her community much more the entire world, but I’ll like to tell you about a woman who has successfully left and is still leaving a giant footprint on the annals of history.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on the 13th of June 1954  in Ogwashi-UkwuDelta State, Nigeria, where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo was the Obi (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Delta State.

Okonjo-Iweala Schooled at Queen’s School, EnuguSt. Anne’s School, MoleteIbadan, and the International School Ibadan. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala proceeded to the US in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University, she graduated with an AB in Economics in 1976. 

And then, In 1981, she earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received an international fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies..

Okonjo-Iweala started out as an intern in World Bank Group. After graduation, she returned to World Bank Group and had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director.

As Managing Director, she oversaw the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.

Dr, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has in her career spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008–2009 food crises, and later during the financial crisis.

In 2010, she was Chair of the IDA replenishment, the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.

During her time at the World Bank, she was also a member of the Commission on Effective Development Cooperation with Africa, which was set up by the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark.

On returning home, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala served as the finance minister federal republic of Nigeria from 2003 to 2006 under president Olusegun Obasanjo and also from 2011 to 2015 under president Goodluck Jonathan.

She also served briefly as the Minister for foreign affairs federal republic of Nigeria in 2006. She is the first woman to hold both positions.

During her first term as Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion.

In 2003, she led efforts to improve Nigeria’s macroeconomic management, including the implementation of an oil-price based fiscal rule.

She also introduced the practice of publishing each state’s monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the newspapers.

This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance.

With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government, she helped build an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption.

As at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the government about $1.25 billion.

Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria get its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s in 2006.

Following her first term as Minister of Finance, she served two months as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006. She returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007.

In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was re-appointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Her legacy includes strengthening the country’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC). 

She also empowered women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender-responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (You WIN); to support entrepreneurs, that created thousands of jobs. 

During the Goodluck Jonathan‘s administration, she received death threats and endured the kidnapping of her mother.

Besides her role in government, Okonjo-Iweala served on the Growth Commission (2006–2009), led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence, and the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012–2013).

She also co-chaired the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. In 2012, she was a candidate for President of the World Bank, running against Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim; if elected, she would have become the organization’s first female president.

After leaving government, she founded the Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution. She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered BankTwitterGlobal Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC)

In June 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country’s candidate to be director-general of the World Trade Organization(WTO). She later advanced to the elections last round, eventually competing with Yoo Myung-hee

The WTO in its formal report said Okonjo-Iweala clearly carried the largest support by Members in the last round; and enjoyed broad support from Members from all levels of development and from all geographic regions and has done so throughout the process On 5 February 2021, Yoo Myung-hee announced her withdrawal from the race.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was unanimously appointed as the next director-general on 15 February.

Dr. Ngozi Okonji Iweala has also authored 5 interesting books that includes.

 Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light (2003)

Economic Reforms: Progress and Challenges (2007)

Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Public Funds (2011)

Reforming the Unreformable (2012)

Fighting Corruption is Dangerous (2018)

Some of her awards include

  • 2020–African of the year, Forbes Africa
  • 2017–Vanguard Award, Howard University
  • 2017–Women’s Economic Empowerment Award, WEConnect International
  • 2017–Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award, Aspen Institute
  • 2016–Power with Purpose Award, Devex Development Communications Network
  • 2016–Global Fairness Award, Global Fairness Initiative
  • 2014–David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award]
  • 2011–President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal, Pia Manzu Centre
  •  2011–Global Leadership Award, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • 2010–Global Leadership Award, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
  • 2010–Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award
  • 2004–TIME’s European Heroes Award
  • 2004–Finance Minister of the Year, Africa Investor Magazine
  • 2005–Finance Minister of the Year for Africa and the Middle East, The Banker
  • 2005–Global Finance Minister of the Year, Euromoney
  • 2005–Finance Minister of the Year for Africa and the Middle East, Emerging Markets Magazine

She is also a public speaker; she has delivered powerful speeches at various events including 2015 Global Landscapes Forum, TEDTalk, African Development Bank Group Annual Meetings and 2016 SIPA’s Graduation.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Dr. Ngozi Okonji Iweala is married to Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from UmuahiaAbia StateNigeria. They have four children, including author Uzodinma Iweala.

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