Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: A Proudly Made-In-Nigeria Ambassador
At MINA-Online, as part of our Advocacy for Made-In-Nigeria, we will be profiling some exemplary Nigerians as our Ambassador of the week. The idea is to celebrate our living Ambassadors, projecting the best of Nigeria to the world. We understand that the world is readily available to report our negatives, we must make a conscious effort to project our positives to the world.
Our Made-In-Nigeria Ambassador for the week, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian-born economist and international development, expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
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 the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.
Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.
Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the US 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) with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies.
She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children – one daughter, Onyinye Iweala (AB, MD, Ph.D., Harvard) and three sons, Uzodinma Iweala (AB, Harvard, MD, Columbia), Okechukwu Iweala (AB, Harvard) and Uchechi Iweala (AB, MD, MBA, Harvard).
A distinguished career woman, Okonjo-Iweala had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director. As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolios in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008 & 2009, food crises, and later during the financial crisis. 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 Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, and held meetings between April and October 2008.
Her career in Government:
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. During her first term as Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club 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, 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 IMF to the Federal Government of Nigeria, she helped build an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process. As of 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion in the process.
Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first-ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poors in 2006.
Following her first term as Minister of Finance, she returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007.
In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala 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 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 program (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, an action that 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.
Okonjo-Iweala is co-Chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman. Previously, she served as the co-Chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
In the past, Okonjo-Iweala was also a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015-2016), chaired by Gordon Brown; the Commission on the New Climate Economy (also co-Chaired by Paul Polman and Lord Nicholas Stern); the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Foundation; the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012-2013); and the renowned Growth Commission (2006-2009), led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence.
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.
In 2012, Okonjo-Iweala was a candidate for President of the World Bank, running against Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim; if elected, she would have been the organization’s first female president.
Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of UNESCO’s International Commission on the Futures of Education, chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde. In 2020, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges. Also in 2020, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as a special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
Okonjo-Iweala has received numerous recognitions 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 was listed among 73 brilliant business influencers in the world by Condé Nast International.
In 2019, Okonjo-Iweala was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was also conferred High National Honours from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia. She is also the recipient of Nigeria’s Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). Among others
Okonjo-Iweala has received honorary degrees from 14 universities worldwide, including some from the most prestigious colleges: the University of Pennsylvania (2013), Yale University (2015), Amherst College (2009) Trinity College, Dublin (2007) Brown University (2006), Colby College (2007)., and Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica. She has 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). In 2019, Okonjo Iweala was awarded an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University.
@MINA-Online we celebrate our Made-In-Nigeria Ambassador of the Week, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.