Call Dr. (Mrs)Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala the woman with “Economic “Magic Hand,” you will certainly not make any mistake. Born 13 June 1954, in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria to Professor Chukwuka Okonjo from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist of no mean feat and an international development expert. Her intellectual capacity and expertise in economic matters and integrity has made her sat on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC) among others..
Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year meritorious career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising through the ranks to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007-2011). Her deep knowledge, high grade performance and contributions in economic matters and strategic development made her to serve 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 started her education 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. 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. Base on her unbeatable intellectual capacity, she received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.
As a renowned financial-economist and developmental expert, Dr. Ngozi 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.
Her unbeatable knowledge as a strategic thinker and an international financial expert negotiator , played out 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.
Her high level of professional pedigree, competence and a deep sense of integrity earned her the position of managing finances at both national and international levels. She 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. 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.
As an outstanding scholar and an international economist of no mean feat, Okonjo-Iweala has received honorary degrees from 14 universities such as: 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
Noted for her high level of good corporate governance, integrity and financial discipline, she is the chair person of the Board of the Nelson Mandela Institution, an umbrella body for the African Institutes of Science and Technology, and Chair of the Board of the African University of Science and Technology in Nigeria and many top notch institutions in across the world too numerous to mention.
As a scholar and an economist of no mean repute, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo has published so many works such as:
- Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The story behind the headlines – A frontline account from Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of how to fight corruption and lessons learned for governance and development. Published by MIT Press, (2018).
- Reforming The Unreformable: Lessons From Nigeria – an account of macroeconomic and structural reforms in Nigeria between 2003 – 2007, published by MIT Press, (2012)
- Shine a Light on the Gaps – an essay on financial inclusion for African Small Holder Farmers, published by Foreign Affairs, (2015), co-authored with Janeen Madan
- Funding the SDGs: Licit and Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries, published by Horizons Magazine, (2016)
- Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light – a biography of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-authored with Tijan Sallah
- The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy – an academic piece, published by Africa World Press, (2003), co-edited with Charles C. Soludo and Mansur Muhtar
- Want to Help Africa? Do Business Here – A Ted Talk delivered March 2007
- Aid Versus Trade – A Ted Talk delivered June 2007
- Don’t Trivialise Corruption, Tackle It – A Tedx Euston Talk delivered January 2013
She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon with 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).
For leaving her foot prints on the sands of times in national/international economies and developmental economy against all odds and challenge, Dr. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo is our Something2know Amazon of the week. We appreciate her contributions.
-Nathaniel Monday Udoh is head of research and strategy in a Public Relations, Marketing & Events Company in Lagos.
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