Celebrating Prof Okonjo-Iweala at 67

Adeze Ojukwu

As Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, marks her 67th birthday today, her monumental accomplishments and commitment to global peace and development are worth celebrating.

By sheer hardwork and divine grace, this amazon has scored so many firsts in her lifetime. Okonjo-Iweala is the first female and African to become the Director General of World Trade Organization (WTO).

As a global citizen, Okonjo-Iweala’s experience gives her strong credentials, according to a tribute written for her by Elaine Knutt in Global Government Forum.
‘After studying economics at Harvard and MIT, she spent 25 years at the World Bank. She was a development economist, working on programme and policy reforms, and eventually became its managing director.’

‘She served as Nigeria’s finance minister twice – in 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 – and was the first woman to assume the role.

‘She has held many other leadership roles. From 2016 to 2020 she chaired Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: a public–private global health partnership that works to improve access to vaccines for children in poor countries.’

‘Along with the World Health Organisation(WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi is currently co-leading the COVAX programme, which aims to support the development of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure equal access.’

‘Okonjo-Iweala also sits on the boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter. Until last year she chaired the board of African Risk Capacity, an agency that helps African governments to better prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.’

Former WTO chief Pascal Lamy told Reuters: ‘She brings stature, she brings experience, a network and a temperament of trying to get things done, which is quite a welcome lot in my view.’

‘Okonjo-Iweala said a key priority will be to work with member nations to address the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic – including a trend towards ‘vaccine nationalism.’

‘A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today,’ she said.

The world’s chief trade negotiator, maintained this stance, yesterday while addressing leaders of G7 countries at the summit in the United Kingdom(UK).
She urged them to accelerate ‘efforts for vaccine equity and also make progress on a proposed waiver to intellectual property obligations by July to ensure a comprehensive ministerial statement for future pandemics.’

Her tweet reads: ‘A very productive session on Health and the Pandemic with #G7 Leaders today. Thanks to Prime Minister @BorisJohnson and Presidents @EmmanuelMacron @CharlesMichel and @vonderleyen for recognising the #WTOs role in solving the pandemic.’

Her history was succinctly captured by Wikipedia.
‘Okonjo-Iweala, born on June 13 1954, is an 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).’

‘She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the number two position of Managing Director, Operations, from 2007 to 2011.’

‘She served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria from 2003 to 2006 and from 2011 to 2015, under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.’
‘Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, to Prof and Prof(Mrs) Chukwuka Okonjo.’

The dad is the king of the town hails from the Obahai royal family of Ogwashi-Ukwu. 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, namely Onyinye Iweala, the daughter and three sons, Uzodinma Okechukwu and Uchechi.

Prof Okonjo-Iweala and the children attended the prestigious Harvard university.

.Ojukwu is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and SDGs advocate. Kindly send feedback to [email protected]

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