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Sun, 06.13.1954

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Economist born

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

*Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on this date in 1954.  She is a Black Nigerian-American economist and international development expert.  

Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria, where her father, Professor was the Obi (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu. She 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 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), which supported her doctoral studies.  She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children, three sons and one daughter.  Okonjo-Iweala has spent 25 years 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.  

Okonjo was the first woman to become the Finance Minister of Nigeria and the first woman to serve in that office twice. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.  After leaving government, Okonjo-Iweala was also a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015-2016), chaired by Gordon Brown, and the Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, which was established by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (2017-2018).  

Since 2014, she has co-chaired the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate.  In January 2016, she was appointed the Chair-elect of the Board of Gavi (vaccine alliance).  Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls.  She founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. She is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution.  

Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of UNESCO's International Commission on the Futures of Education.  Also, since 2019, she has served on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health).   In 2020, the International Monetary Fund's Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges.  Also, in 2020, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as a special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent confront the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In June 2020, Nigeria nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country’s candidate to be director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  She later advanced to the election's final round.  Ahead of the vote, she received the backing of the European Union for her candidacy.  During her campaign to become the next Director-General of the WTO, it was revealed that Okonjo-Iweala became a US citizen in 2019 after spending several decades working and studying in the United States.  Given the ongoing trade tensions between China and the US, analysts commented that the disclosure would contribute to shaping China’s attitude towards her. 

In October 2020, the United States government said it would not back Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy.  In early 2021, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as co-chair of the High-Level Independent Panel (HLIP) on financing the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response, which the G20 had established. On February 5, 2021, Yoo Myung hee announced her withdrawal from the race in "close consultation with the United States." 

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