Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian economist and international development professional, global development expert and environmental sustainability advocate.
She is the first woman to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. She sits on the board of many organizations such as Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Mandela Institute of Development Studies, Rockefeller, etc.
Early life and education
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on June 13, 1954, in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State. Her father, Professor Chukwuka Okonjo, was King (Obi) of the royal family. Also, her parents Chukwuka and Kamene Okonjo, were both professors at the University of Ibadan.
She had her secondary education at the Queen’s College, Enugu; St Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan; and the International School Ibadan.
After that, Okonjo-Iweala studied Economics at Harvard University in 1976. She has a Master’s degree in City Planning (1978) from Harvard University. She obtained her Doctorate in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
Okonjo-Iweala started as an intern at the World Bank before graduating from the university.
Upon her graduation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala started her career as a development economist at the World Bank in Washington DC. She spent 25 years working for the World Bank. During this time, she rose from the position of development economist to Managing Director. She was responsible for overseeing the World Bank’s $81 million portfolios in Africa, Asia and Europe.
In the same vein, Okonjo-Iweala served two terms as the Minister of Finance, from 2003 to 2006 and 2011 to 2015. Also, she did a term as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
She was the first woman to hold both positions. During her first term as Minister of Finance under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, she carried out notable projects, some of which are the negotiations with the Paris Club that witnessed the wiping off $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt also, including the cancelling of $18 billion.
ALSO READ: Chimamanda Adichie biography
In addition, Okonjo-Iweala introduced publishing in the newspapers each state’s monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government. This act helped to increase transparency in governance.
Also, as the Minister of Finance, she was able to eliminate 62,883 ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, a technology she introduced with the help of The World Bank and the IMF. The system saved the government about $1.25 billion in 2014.
Furthermore, as the Minister of Finance under the administration of His Excellency Goodluck Johnathan, she strengthened the public finance system and worked on the housing system with the establishment of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC).
Likewise, she also empowered women and youth in the country by establishing the Growing Girls and Women Programme (GWIN). Also, she found the Youth Enterprise with Innovation Programme (YouWIN) to support entrepreneurs. The program saw the creation of many jobs for the youth.
Sadly, during her tenure under the administration of Goodluck Johnathan, she received many death threats and the kidnapping of her mother. She also took the hit for the fuel subsidy removal in 2012, an action that led to a riot.
Upon leaving the government in 2015, she became a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015-2016).
In addition, Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of NOI-Polls, the first Nigerian indigenous opinion research organization. Also, she founded the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa based in Abuja.
Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Commission on the Futures of Education. The African Union also appointed her to solicit international support to help Africa deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, in June 2020, Nigerian President Muhammad Bihari nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization WTO. However, her nominations were blocked by the Donald Trump administration, who preferred South Korean candidate Yoo Myung Hee. In February 2021, Yoo Myung Hee announced her withdrawal from the race. In the light of this announcement, the U.S. government gave Okonjo-Iweala their full backing under the Biden-Harris government. Okonjo-Iweala was unanimously nominated as Director-General of the WTO on February 15 2021 and began her career as the Director-General in March of that same year. She still holds the position to date. She was the first female and black person to have this title.
ALSO READ: Obi Cubana net worth and biography
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s family
Okonjo-Iweala is married to Ikemba Iweala, a physician from Umuahia, Abia State. Together they have four children, including author Uzodinma Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala’s net worth and salary are estimated at $49.3 million. She served two terms as the Minister of Finance and is currently the Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
The economist has achieved a lot of tremendous and commendable things both in the World Bank and as the Minister of Finance in Nigeria.
Okonjo-Iweala is said to have spearheaded many initiatives to assist low-income countries with funds from the International Development Association, a fund from the World Bank for developing nations.
One of her greatest achievements as a Minister of finance was when she led a team which negotiated the writing-off of $18 billion of the country’s debt in 2005.
She also empowered Nigerian women and girls through her Growing Girls and Women program in Nigeria.
In addition, she was instrumental in boosting Nigeria’s ratings from Fitch Ratings and Standard. She also helped reduce the number of ghost workers, saving Nigeria a colossal sum of money.
Okonjo Iweala has received recognitions and awards for her many achievements and accomplishments some of which are/
- This Day Awards for Minister of the Year(2004).
- Global Minister of the Year by the EuroMoney Magazine (2005).
- 100 Women in the World by the Guardian U.K. Newspaper 2011.
- Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.
- Forbes’ 10 Most Influential Women in Africa 2011.
- Financial Minister of the Year by Africa Investor Magazine 2014.
- 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIMES Magazine 2014.
- 50 Greatest World Leaders by Fortune Magazine 2015.
- Aspen Institute Madeleine Albright Award 2017.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a no-nonsense woman who stood firmly against corruption. Even when her mother was kidnapped and asked to tender her resignation as the Minister of Finance in 2012, she refused.
She is a patriotic citizen who believes in dressing in her African attire and not the English clothing. This way of her life has been adopted by many people worldwide.
In conclusion, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a daring and powerful woman that has broken many records.
ALSO READ: Bose Ogulu Biography