Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated as the first female head of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A staunch promoter of trade and development, the Nigerian-American looks back on an illustrious career.
The economist and expert in international finance and development is regarded as a skilled negotiator and consensus builder, having gathered experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.
The 66-year-old chairs the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and sits on the board of Twitter. She was recently appointed African Union Special Envoy for the continent’s access to the Covid-19 tools accelerator.
Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years as a development economist at the World Bank, during which she quickly rose through the ranks to become managing director of operations.
She spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during both food and financial crises, generating more than 40 billion dollars for the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s grant and soft credit arm.
Okonjo-Iweala twice served as Nigerian finance minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and briefly acted as foreign minister in 2006. She was the first Nigerian woman to hold both positions.
As finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala implemented a comprehensive economic reform programe that stabilized Africa’s most populous country’s macro-economy, tripled its economic growth rate and fostered greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption.
Nigerians regard Okonjo-Iweala as the woman who saved their country’s crippled economy.
Okonjo-Iweala, as finance minister, led Nigeria’s negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors, which in 2005 resulted in the wiping out of 30 billion dollars of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of 19 billion dollars.
Okonjo-Iweala describes herself as “a firm believer in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty.”
She earned an economics degree from Harvard University (1976), graduating magna cum laude, a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received 15 honorary degrees from universities across the world.
Okonjo-Iweala is the author of numerous books and articles on finance and economics.
Transparency International named her one of eight inspirational female anti-corruption fighters in 2019, while Fortune Magazine called her one of the 50 greatest world leaders in 2015. In 2014, Time Magazine listed her among the top 100 most influential people in the world.
Okonjo-Iweala is married with four children and has three grandchildren.