Here are 21 things to know about the new WTO Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala:
#1 She was born on June 13, 1954 in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Nigeria, her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo was the Obi (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.
#2 She lived with her grandmother until the age of nine as her parents were abroad getting their education. In an interview with BBC, she said, “They were gone for almost a decade before I really saw them and knew them. I did everything a village girl would do, fetch water, go to the farm with my grandmother all the chores, I saw what poverty meant, to be poor at first hand.”
#3 In 1973, she arrived in the US as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating with great distinction with an AB in Economics in 1976. She earned her Ph.D in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development in 1981. Furthermore, she received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women that supported her doctoral studies.
#4 She was a developmental economist in World Bank for 25 years. Ngozi rose to the No. 2 position of Managing Director of Operations. As MD, she successfully led several initiatives to assist low-income countries, in particular raising around 50 billion US dollars in 2010 from donors for the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest nations.
#5 Another notable work of hers was leading an initiative which negotiated to write-off debt worth 18 billion US dollars in 2005 for Nigeria, helping the country obtain its first-ever sovereign debt rating. Moreover, her economic reforms had a far-reaching impact and saved Nigeria’s crippling economy.
#6 Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006, 2011-2015) and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was the first female to hold the positions. She left her high-paying job at World Bank from Washington DC to serve her country.
#7 During her ministry, she imposed reforms which were intended to bombard a crackdown on corruption in the fuel sector. This led to the kidnapping of her mother, Kamene Okonjo, a medical doctor and retired professor of sociology. The kidnapper demanded her resignation and ransom, but she refused to give in to their demands. Nevertheless, her mother was then released within five days.
#8 Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organisation, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa, a development research think tank based in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria.
#9 She also serves as a member of numerous national, international, corporate and non-profit organisations such as Twitter, Standard Chartered Bank, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, African Risk Capacity and many more. Moreover, she was one of the special envoys of the African Union to mobilise international economic support for the continental fight against COVID-19.
#10 Ngozi is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children; one daughter and three sons who are alumni of prestigious institutions like Harvard University and Columbia University. One of her sons – Uzodinma Iweala, once said about his mother, “My mum is a very powerful woman. She knows how she wants things done, and if you don’t do it her way, you are in trouble.”
#11 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has over 30 years of experience as an economist and international development expert.
#12 She has received over fifteen honorary degrees, including from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Tel Aviv University and Trinity College, Dublin get bachelor degree in Economics from Harvard University and PhD in Regional Economics and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
#13 She is the Angelopoulos Global Public Leader for Harvard University Kennedy School, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
#14 She is a Board member of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc
#15 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is also an author. She has pulished serveral works on anti-corruption, development economics and women in leadership.
#16 Recently, she was appointed as AU Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support for the fight against COVID-19 and WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
#17 Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
#18 Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman to be chosen as Director-General of WTO.
#19 She is also the first African to be chosen as Director-General of WTO.
#20 She is the first Nigerian to become Director-General of WTO.
#21 Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will resume as the Director-General of WTO on 1 March 2021. Her term, renewable, will expire on 31 August 2025.
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