Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Biography

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-American economist and international development professional with over 40 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

She is the seventh and current Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She is the first woman and the first African to hold the position. Having taken office on March 1, 2021, her term of office is expected to expire on August 31.

Okonjo-Iweala was born on June 13, 1954, in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Nigeria. She studied economics at Harvard University and received her Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Educational Pursuit

She studied at Queen’s School, Enugu; St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State; and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the US in 1973 to study at Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. Ngozi also earned a Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala began her over 20-year career at the World Bank as a development economist in 1982. She held a number of positions at the bank, including Country Director for Nigeria, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe. She also served as Managing Director for Operations, where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.

Okonjo-Iweala had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director Operations.

In 2003, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. She served in this position until 2006, and again from 2011 to 2015. 

During her time as Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala implemented several reforms that helped to improve Nigeria’s economy, including the introduction of a new currency, the naira, and the implementation of budget reforms. She also played a leading role in Nigeria’s debt relief efforts.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Appointments

In 2005, Okonjo-Iweala was named Global Finance Minister of the Year by Euromoney magazine. She has also been recognized for her work by Time magazine, which named her one of its European Heroes of the Year in 2004.

In 2016, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. She also served on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc.

Board of the African Union, as chair of the African Risk Capacity Group. She is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution, premier Washington D.C. think tanks.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

In 2020, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Director-General of the WTO. She took office on March 1, 2021. As Director-General of the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala has focused on reforming the organization and making it more relevant to the 21st century. She has also worked to promote trade as a tool for economic development and poverty reduction.

Okonjo-Iweala is a highly respected economist and international development professional. She is a strong advocate for trade and economic development, and she is committed to making the WTO a more effective organization.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Awards

Okonjo-Iweala has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including 

1. She was named Forbes African of the Year (2020), 

2. Ranked by Fortune as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders in 2015 and by 

3. Forbes as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World for four consecutive years. 

4. She holds a Bachelor’s in Economics from Harvard University and a 

PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

5. Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin, Brown University, and 13 other institutions around the world. 

6. Minister of the Decade, 

7. People’s Choice Award (2020) by Nigeria’s This Day newspaper, and 

8. One of the Transparency International’s 8 Female Anti-Corruption Fighters Who Inspire

Other Reforms

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Other notable achievements

  • Implemented several reforms that helped to improve Nigeria’s economy
  • Played a leading role in Nigeria’s debt relief efforts
  • Named Global Finance Minister of the Year by Euromoney magazine in 2005
  • Appointed Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in 2016
  • Appointed Director-General of the WTO in 2020

She distinguished herself by carrying out significant reforms which improved the effectiveness of these two Ministries and the functioning of the government machinery. 

She founded Nigeria’s first-ever indigenous opinion research organization, NOI-Polls, and the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, Nigeria.

Okonjo-Iweala is a Commissioner Emeritus and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. She was formerly Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and was previously on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc. 

Okonjo-Iweala is an inspiration to women and girls around the world. She is a role model for what can be achieved through hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

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