Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Meet Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a true role model!
Renowned economist, a former foreign and finance minister of Nigeria and second-in-command of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has become the first woman and African to head the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made history when the General Council of the World Trade Organization agreed by consensus to select her as the Organization’s seventh Director-General on February 15, 2021. She officially took office on March 1, 2021.
“I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world, and we have a lot of work to do”, Okonjo-Iweala declared on her first day on the job. Setting out her priorities, the international development expert said a key focus for her would be to work closely with
A technical innovation leader
Ms. Ingabire has served as Head of the ICT Business Development Department at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and coordinator of the Kigali Innovation City Project; a flagship program of the Government designed to nurture and strengthen a Pan-African Innovation eco-system in Rwanda. As the Head of the ICT Business Development department in RDB, she led implementation of National ICT programs notably eGovernment and Cyber Security.
With 10 years’ experience leading ICT programs for economic development, she’s a keen advocate of the role of innovation and emerging technologies towards driving economic growth. Ms. Ingabire has propelled Rwanda forward in its adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution tools.
In June 2020, Nigerian President Mohammad Buhari nominated Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who served as Nigeria’s finance minister under two previous presidents, as a candidate for the position, thanks to her impeccable record and unassailable reputation within and outside the country.
Outstanding achievements at home
In her first role as finance minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala led the team that negotiated an $18 billion debt write-off from the Paris Club in 2005.
The 64-year-old woman also oversaw Nigeria’s first sovereign credit rating of “BB-,” a rating that grouped Nigeria with other emerging markets such as Vietnam. And with support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala helped Nigeria build an electronic financial management platform, identifying and eliminating thousands of “pseudo workers” on government payrolls. She also introduced programs to generate employment for girls and women.
Her stint at the World 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. Dr. 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 less developed 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.
After growing up in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala studied development economics at Harvard and earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Throughout her career, she has made history, becoming the first woman to serve as both the Nigerian finance minister in 2003 and foreign affairs minister in 2006.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was also the first woman to run for the World Bank presidency, where she spent more than two decades.
A well-decorated economist
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from institutions such as Brown University, Trinity College Dublin, and the University of Pennsylvania; the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal Award by the Pio Manzu Centre, and the Global Leadership Award from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
With the world set to celebrate International Women’s day, the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could not have come at a better time! The new WTO boss is an inspirational figure for women of her country and the world at large.
Though Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala faces enormous challenges in her new role, hopes are high that she will fully utilize her longstanding experience and skills to overcome the hurdles lying ahead.