Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 68, is a Nigerian-American economist, fair trade leader, environmental sustainability advocate, human welfare champion, sustainable finance maven and global development expert. Her good works have been constantly referenced in some of our Power of Africa editorials and posts celebrating impactful African women.
She was born in Ogweshi-Ukwu, Delta State, South-South, Nigeria, and in 1973, she arrived in the USA to study Economics at Harvard University. She graduated in 1976 and went on to earn a masters degree in city planning in 1978 and her PhD in regional economics and development in 1981 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She was the first Nigerian woman to serve two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria, initially, under President Olusegun Obasanjo from 2003 to 2006; and secondly under President Goodluck Jonathan from 2011 to 2015. Under the Jonathan administration, she was also appointed Coordinating Minister for the Economy. She also served in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Nigeria from June to August 2006.
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 in the newspapers, each state's monthly financial allocation for the Federal Government of Nigeria. That act went a long way in increasing transparency in governance.
In 2005, the English business and finance magazine, Euromoney named her Global Finance Minister of The Year. Okonjo-Iweala had a 25 year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist and rose to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. She spearheaded several World Bank to assist low income countries during the 2008-2009 food crises and later during the financial crisis.
In 2012, she was a candidate for the President of the World Bank, running against Jim Yong Kim; and if elected, she would have become the organisation's first female president.
After leaving government in 2015, she has been involved in a series of global missions and special duties. At a time, 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.
In 2020, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country's candidate to be director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Since March 2021, Okonjo-Iweala has been serving as Director-General of the WTO. Notably she is the first African woman and first African to lead the organisation. The influential Okonjo-Iweala sits on the board of prominent global organizations in Africa and the rest of the world. She is happily married and blessed with four kids.
The pristine personality of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is one that has continued to inspire and motivate generations of young Africans to pursue the paths of diligence, honour and excellence in all their endeavours. Our desire as Power of Africa is to see more African youths especially women take charge and be responsible for critical decisions in their countries that would transform lives and have an impact on the socio economic conditions of their peoples.