The new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the first female Minister of Finance in Nigeria, a politician of repute who served two different regimes as Finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy, she is also a world-class economist.
Ngozi Iweala hails from Ogwashi-Ukwu in present-day Delta State, her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is a traditional ruler from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.
Okonjo-Iweala attended an International School in Ibadan, Nigeria. Then proceeded to Harvard University, where she graduated with a BA in Economics in 1976, she later earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981 with a thesis title Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development.
She also received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.
In 2003, the cerebral Economist left her job with the World Bank as the Vice-President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group in order to serve her great Nation Nigeria. That’s when she was appointed for the first time as a Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She then returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007. Okonjo-Iweala had also previously spent the first 21 years of her career as a development economist at the World Bank.
As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolios in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. She was reappointed as Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2015.
As the coordinating Minister for the Economy, her legacy includes empowering Nigeria’s 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); a highly acclaimed programme to support entrepreneurs that created thousands of jobs.
She was not only recognized as the first woman to be the Finance and Foreign Minister but also Harvard and M.I.T trained. She is a board member at African Risk Capacity, a Specialized Agency of the African Union (AU) to help the Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, therefore protecting the food security of their vulnerable populations.
She is also the Board Chair at Gavi, an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance, bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.
Okonjo-Iweala once ran as a candidate for president of the World Bank, if she was elected, she would have been the first female president of the World Bank, and the first president not nominated by the U.S. Okonjo-Iweala lost to Kim.
In July 2018, Ngozi was nominated on the board of Twitter Inc. She received recognition and a number of awards. Some of the honours include ‘One of the “50 Greatest World Leaders” by Fortune magazine in 2015, one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine in 2014, and one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2012. She also got honorary degrees from Yale University (2015), Babcock University (2014), the University of Pennsylvania (2013), Amherst College (2009), Trinity College, Dublin (2007) Brown University (2006), and Colby College (2007).
She is married to Dr Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from Umuahia, Abia State, and they have four children.
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