Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
If confirmed, she would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is a former Finance Minister of Nigeria, is being challenged by another woman, Yoo Myung-hee, who is South Korea’s Trade Minister.
The WTO is expected to reach an agreement on which of the two women become its next Director-General in time for its General Council meeting next month.
Here’s all you need to know about Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala:
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala a global finance expert, is an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Currently, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. Since its creation in 2000, Gavi has immunized 680 million children globally and saved ten million lives. She is also a Senior Adviser at Lazard and sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc.
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 special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, Dr Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, 2011-2015, and briefly Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions. She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations.
She is renowned as the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012, backed by Africa and major developing countries in the first truly contestable race for the world’s highest development finance post. As Managing Director of the World Bank, 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 crisis and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was Chair of the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala has been listed as one of Transparency International’s 8 Female Anti-Corruption Fighters Who Inspire (2019), one 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 UK Guardian, 2011), the Top 150 Women in the World (Newsweek, 2011), and the Top 100 most inspiring people in the World Delivering for Girls and Women (Women Deliver, 2011). She has also been listed among 73 “brilliant” business influencers in the world by Condé Nast International
She is also the recipient of the TIME Magazine’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, Newspaper2004 and 2005).
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first ever 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. Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development, and also at the Brookings Institution, premier Washington D.C. think tanks.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University (1976), and earned a Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, 1981).
She has received honorary degrees from 15 universities worldwide, including some from the most prestigious colleges: Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Trinity College (University of Dublin), Amherst College, Colby College, Tel Aviv University, and Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica. She also has honorary doctorate degrees from a host of Nigerian universities including Abia State University, Delta State University, Oduduwa University, Babcock University, and the Universities of Port Harcourt, Calabar, and Ife (Obafemi Awolowo).
She is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (MIT Press, 2018), Reforming the UnReformable: Lessons from Nigeria, (MIT Press, 2012), Mobilizing Finance for Education in the Commonwealth (Commonwealth Education Report 2019), Shine a Light on the Gaps – an essay on financial inclusion for African Small Holder Farmers (Foreign Affairs, 2015), Funding the SDGs: Licit and Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries (Horizons Magazine, 2016), and The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (Africa World Press, 2003). She also co-authored with Tijan Sallah the book Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light (Africa World Press, 2003).
She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children and three grandchildren.
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