PROFILE OF AN ACHIEVER: DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA



Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala




Arise Africa Magazine is excited to unveil our Woman of The Year Award winner at Arise Africa Achievers Award 2020; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the world’s finest international development economists.

Princess Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on June 13, 1954 to the family of Professor Chukwuka Okonjo of Obahai Royal Dynasty and the Traditional Ruler of Ogwashi-Ukwu Kingdom in Delta State.

Her educational pursuits started at Queen's School, Enugu; then St. Anne's School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School, Ibadan. She arrived in the United States of America in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. In 1981, she earned her Ph.D in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies.

She spent a fruitful 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington, DC first as a Development Economist, and rose through the ranks to become the Managing Director, which is the second highest position in the bank. As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008 and 2009 food and financial crises.

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 Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark and held meetings between April and October 2008.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was the first female to hold both positions in the country. During her first term as Minister of Finance under president Obasanjo’s Administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors 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 where revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price were saved in a special account called the “Excess Crude Account” which helped to reduce macroeconomic volatility. 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 International Monetary Fund, she built an electronic financial management platform called the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which are tools designed to help curtail corruption in the system.

As at December 31, 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion. She was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's in 2006.

At the end of her first term as Minister of Finance, she returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007. In 2011, she 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 in the office includes strengthening Nigeria’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC).

She also empowered 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); to support entrepreneurs that created thousands of jobs. This program has been evaluated by the World Bank as one of the most effective programs of its kind globally.

Under her leadership, the National Bureau of Statistics carried out a re-basing exercise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the first in 24 years, which saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa. She took a lot of heat for the fuel subsidy removal policy by the Nigerian government, which led to protests in January 2012. In May 2016, the new Nigerian administration eventually removed the fuel subsidy after it became apparent that it was unsustainable and inefficient.

In September 2015, she joined Lazard as a Senior Advisor and in January 2016 she was appointed Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). As at 2019, Gavi has immunized 700 million children globally and saved 10 million lives.

She is co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman. In July 2017, she became an independent non-executive director at Standard Chartered PLC.

On July 19, 2018, Jack Dorsey announced that Okonjo-Iweala has joined Twitter's Board of Directors. She is Chair of the Board of the African Union's, African Risk Capacity, an innovative weather based insurance mechanism for African countries. She is also Chair of the Board of the Nelson Mandela Institution, an umbrella body for the African Institutes of Science and Technology, and Chair of the Board of the African University of Science and Technology in Nigeria.

In addition, she is a member of numerous boards and advisory groups including the Harvard University Advisory Council; the University of Oxford's Martin School’s Advisory Council; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank's International Advisory Panel; the International Commission on Financing Global Education (Chaired by Gordon Brown); the Japan International Cooperation Agency's International Advisory Board; the Mercy Corps International Advisory Council; Women’s World Banking; Results for Development Institute; the B Team (Co-founded by Sir Richard Branson); the Commission on the New Climate Economy (also co-Chaired by Mr Paul Polman and Lord Nicholas Stern) and the Global Development Network amongst others.

She was also a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation Board; the One Campaign; the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders; the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Governments; International Advisory Board, the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Foundation; the International Monetary and Finance Committee of the IMF (2003 - 2006 and 2011 - 2015); the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post - 2015 Development Agenda, the Danish - Government-led Commission on Africa; the World Economic Forum Global Leadership Council on Transparency and Corruption, and the renowned Commission on World Growth led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution.

She has received numerous recognition and awards. She has been listed as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015); the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2014); the Top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy, 2011 and 2012); the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World (Forbes, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014); the Top 3 Most Powerful Women in Africa (Forbes, 2012); the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Africa (Forbes, 2011); the Top 100 Women in the World (The Guardian, 2011); the Top 150 Women in the World (Newsweek, 2011); the Top 100 Most Inspiring People in the World Delivering for Girls and Women (Women Deliver, 2011).

She received the Women’s Economic Empowerment Award from WEConnect International (2017) and was listed among 73 “Brilliant” Business Influencers in the World by Condé Nast International.

In 2019, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2017, she received the Vanguard Award from Howard University. She also received the Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award from the Aspen Institute.

In 2016, she received the Power with Purpose Award from the Devex Development Communications Network and the Global Fairness Award from the Global Fairness Initiative. She was also conferred High National Honours from the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is also the recipient of Nigeria's Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). In addition, she has been awarded the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2014). She is a recipient of the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal by the Pia Manzu Centre (2011); the Global Leadership Award by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (2011); the Global Leadership Award by the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (2010) and the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award (2010); the TIME’s European Heroes Award in 2004; named Finance Minister of the Year (Africa Investor Magazine, 2014); Finance Minister of the Year for Africa and the Middle East (THE BANKER, 2004), Global Finance Minister of the Year (EUROMONEY, 2005), Finance Minister of the Year for Africa and the Middle East (Emerging Markets Magazine, 2005), and Minister of the Year (THISDAY, 2004 and 2005).

She received honorary degrees from 14 universities worldwide, including some from the most prestigious colleges: University of Pennsylvania (2013); Yale University (2015); Amherst College (2009); Trinity College, Dublin (2007);  Brown University (2006); Colby College (2007); Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica.
She also received degrees from a host of Nigerian universities including Abia State University; Delta State University, Abraka; Oduduwa University; Babcock University; and the Universities of Port Harcourt; Calabar; and Ife (Obafemi Awolowo).

She is currently a member of South Africa’s Economic Advisory Council and she was recently nominated by the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari to compete for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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