Biography

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Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a global finance expert. She is an economist and international development expert with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Central 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 Senior Adviser at Lazard, one the world’s premier financial advisory and asset management firms.

Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist, rising to the position of Managing Director (2007-2011). She also 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 is renowned as the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group, 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.

As Minister of Finance in Nigeria, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors that led to the wiping out of $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of $18 billion. In her second term as Finance Minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was responsible for leading reforms that enhanced transparency of government accounts and strengthened institutions against corruption, including the implementation of the GIFMS (Government Integrated Financial Management System), the IPPMS (Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management System), and the TSA (Treasury Single Account).

Dr Okonjo-Iweala has been listed as one of 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 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.

In 2017, Dr Okonjo-Iweala received the Women’s Economic Empowerment Award from WEConnect International, and the Vanguard Award from Howard University. She also received the Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award from the Aspen Institute. In 2016, she received the Power with Purpose Award from the Devex Development Communications Network and the Global Fairness Award from the Global Fairness Initiative, and she was also conferred High National Honours from the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia. She is also the recipient of Nigeria’s Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). In addition, Dr Okonjo-Iweala has been awarded the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2014), the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal by the Pia Manzu Centre (2011), the Global Leadership Award by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (2011) the Global Leadership Award by the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (2010), and the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award (2010). She is also the recipient of the TIME’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, 2004 and 2005).

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is currently also Chair of the Board of the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (ARC), an innovative weather-based insurance mechanism for African countries. She Chairs the board of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, Nigeria and is Chair of the Nelson Mandela Institution. She is co-Chair of the Commission on the New Climate Economy with Lord Nicolas Stern and Mr Paul Polman. In addition, she is a member of numerous boards and advisory groups, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Harvard University, the Oxford University Martin School Advisory Council, Mercy Corps, Women’s World Banking, the International Commission on Financing Global Education (Chaired by Gordon Brown), among others. She also served on the Rockefeller Foundation Board, the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Foundation Board, and the ONE Board. Dr Okonjo-Iweala also serves on the Board of Standard Chartered PLC, alongside a number of corporate boards.

Previously, she served as the co-Chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation with Justine Greening (UK Secretary for International Development), and Chair of the World Bank’s Development Committee (2004). She was also a member of the International Monetary and Finance Committee of the IMF (2003-2006 and 2011-2015), the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Danish-Government-led Commission on Africa, the World Economic Forum Global Leadership Council on Transparency and Corruption, and the Commission on World Growth (led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence). She has served on the advisory board of the Global Development Network, and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government.

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.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala arrived in the USA as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. She earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981 with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural developmentShe has received honorary degrees from 14 universities worldwide, including some from the most prestigious colleges: the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Brown University, Trinity College (University of Dublin), Amherst College, Colby College, 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 (MIT Press, 2018), Reforming the UnReformable: Lessons from Nigeria, (MIT Press, 2012) and The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (Africa World Press, 2003).

She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children – Onyinye Iweala (AB, MD, PhD, Harvard), Uzodinma Iweala (AB, Harvard, MD, Columbia), Okechukwu Iweala (AB, Harvard) and Uchechi Iweala (AB, MD, MBA, Harvard).