Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert. She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC). On 15 February 2021, she was recently appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Her term will begin on 1 March 2021, when she will become the first woman and the first African to hold the office.
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 President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. She was the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister, the first woman to serve in that office twice, and the only finance minister to have served under two different presidents. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been adjudged the ‘2020 African of the Year’. Previous winners have been Rwandan President Paul Kagame (2018) and African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina (2019). Okonjo-Iweala is well-positioned to take on the next big role, transforming Africa and negotiating on the world stage.
All these she would not have achieved if she didn’t have access to quality education.
Her story, “my education was truncated by the Nigerian Biafra War. We were in the war for three years and this was something that really opened my eyes. It started when I was just entering my teens and finished when I was in my mid-teens. It was a harrowing time, two of the three years I didn’t go to school.”
Despite the Biafra war, which had a long-lasting impact on Okonjo-Iweala, she still managed to scale through educationally. After the war, Okonjo-Iweala managed to catch up with her education and got accepted into the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom as well as Harvard University in the United States.
She is a firm believer in education, especially education of the girl-child. She serves as a model and hope to many young girls in Nigeria and Africa.
In her words; Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream, is even smarter economics.
Also, “Educating our young girls is the foundation for Nigeria’s growth and development.”
For this and many more reasons, we celebrate this ICON.
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