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Women Corner: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

26 June 2019 Blog


Our women corner this week is beaming its light on,Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wasborn 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 USA in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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, PhD, Harvard) and three sons, Uzodinma Iweala (AB, Harvard, MD, Columbia), Okechukwu Iweala (AB, Harvard) and Uchechi Iweala (AB, MD, MBA, Harvard).

Okonjo-Iweala spent 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 portfolio 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 the Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark and held meetings between April and October 2008.

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 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, “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 at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigen 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 & Poor’s in 2006.

Okonjo Iweala. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

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 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 programmes 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 580 million children globally and saved 8 million lives.

She is co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Sternand Paul Polman.

In July 2017, she became an independent non-executive director at Standard Chartered PLC. 2017.

Jack Dorsey announced on July 19, 2018 that Okonjo-Iweala would join Twitter’s Board of Directors.

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