Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first women and first African to be appointed as the Director of the World Trade Organisation. Founded in 1995, the WTO has finally showed signs of inclusivity in their leadership profile.
Born in June 1954, Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian economist and international development expert.
Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007–2011). She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. She was the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister and the first woman to serve in that office twice. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.
When it comes to doing my job, I keep my ego in my handbag – Okonjo Iweala
She graduated magna cum laude with an AB in Economics from Harvard University (1973). In 1981, she earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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 (YouWIN); to support entrepreneurs, that created thousands of jobs.
Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream is even smarter economics – Okonjo Iweala
After leaving government, Okonjo-Iweala was also a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015–2016), chaired by Gordon Brown, and the Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, which was established by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (2017–2018). Since 2014, she has been co-chairing the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman. In January 2016, she was appointed the Chair-elect of the Board of Gavi.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of 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, Nigeria.
Africans are tired of being the subject of everybody’s charity and care. We are grateful, but we know that we can take charge of our own destinies if we have the will to reform – Okonjo-Iweala
Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of UNESCO’s International Commission on the Futures of Education, chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde. In 2020, she was appointed as an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges at the International Monetary Fund. Also since 2019, she has also been serving on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health). Also in 2020, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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If you liked this article, you might enjoy reading Women Presidents in Africa or African Women Freedom Fighters