Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
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 the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.
She is renowned as the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012, backed by Africa and major developing countries in the first truly contestable race for the world’s highest development finance post.
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 a Senior Adviser at Lazard and sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc.
Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the US 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. 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).
Career World Bank
Okonjo-Iweala had a 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.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is currently a senior adviser at Lazard and serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Center for Global Development, among others. She is also the chair of African Risk Capacity, a specialised agency of the African Union to help member states prepare for and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Okonjo-Iweala was 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 is a recipient of Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award (2011), the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2014), the Devex Power with Purpose Award (2016), the Global Fairness Award (2016), and the Columbia University Global Leadership Award (2011), as well as others. She has received over ten honorary degrees, including from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and Trinity College, Dublin.
She is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (MIT Press, 2018), Reforming the UnReformable: Lessons from Nigeria, (MIT Press, 2012), Mobilizing Finance for Education in the Commonwealth (Commonwealth Education Report 2019), Shine a Light on the Gaps – an essay on financial inclusion for African Small Holder Farmers (Foreign Affairs, 2015), Funding the SDGs: Licit and Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries (Horizons Magazine, 2016), and The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (Africa World Press, 2003). She also co-authored with Tijan Sallah the book Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light (Africa World Press, 2003).