It is no news that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
Some of her three key tasks as WTO’s director-general include:
1. Broker international trade talks in the face of persistent US-China conflict
2. Respond to pressure to reform trade rules
3. Counter protectionism heightened by the COVID-19
Born 13 June 1954, Okonjo-Iweala studied Economics at Harvard University graduating with an A.B. magna cum laude in 1976. She followed it up with a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Okonjo-Iweala has had a number of landmark achievements on her journey to becoming WTO DG.
1.She has twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister under Obasanjo (2003-2006) and Goodluck Jonathan’s administration (2011-2015) making her the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister and the first woman to serve in that office twice.
2.Under Obasanjo’s administration, here are some of the things she achieved.
- She spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion.
- In 2003 she led efforts to improve Nigeria’s macroeconomic management including the implementation of an oil-price-based fiscal rule.
- She also introduced the practice of publishing each state’s monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance.
- With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government, she helped build an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process.
- Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating in 2006.
3.Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year in 2005.
4. In 2006 she served briefly as Foreign Affairs Minister making her the first female to serve as both minister of finance and foreign affairs minister.
5. Okonjo-Iweala was re-appointed as Finance Minister with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. Here are some of the things she achieved.
- She was responsible for strengthening the country’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC).
- She also empowered women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender-responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); to support entrepreneurs, that created thousands of jobs.
- Under her leadership, the National Bureau of Statistics carried out a re-basing exercise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the first in 24 years, which saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa.
6.Okonjo-Iweala served on the Growth Commission (2006-2009) and the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012-2013)
7.She also co-chaired the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
8.She would have become the World Bank’s first female president in 2012 if she was elected.
9.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).
10.She has been co-chairing the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman since 2014.
11.In January 2016, she was appointed the Chair-elect of the Board of Gavi.
12.Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls.
13.She also founded the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Brookings Institution.
14.She has spent over 20 years as a development economist at the World Bank where she rose to the number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007–2011).
15. She has also been serving on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health) since 2019.
16.She officially became a US Citizen in 2019.
17.In 2020, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges.
18.Also in 2020, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as a special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.