It’s Woman Crush Wednesday again and we are focused on the most powerful African woman in the world; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala GCON, a Nigerian-American economist and a world influencer.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala GCON born on June 13, 1954, has been leading the World Trade Organization since March 2021. Notably, she is the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
She serves on the boards of several organizations, including Danone, Standard Chartered Bank, MINDS (the Mandela Institute for Development Studies), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, One Campaign, GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), the Rockefeller Foundation, R4D (Results for Development), ARC (African Risk Capacity), and Earth Shot Prize. When she was appointed Director General of the World Trade Organization in February 2021, she resigned from her position on the Twitter Board of Directors, which she had previously held.
Okonjo-Iweala works for the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program as a non-resident distinguished fellow on the Africa Growth Initiative. She is Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and an Emeritus Commissioner. She worked at The World Bank for 25 years as a development economist, ascending to the position of Managing Director for Operations between 2007 and 2011. First serving under President Olusegun Obasanjo from 2003 to 2006 and then under President Goodluck Jonathan from 2011 to 2015, Okonjo-Iweala was the first Nigerian woman to hold the position for two terms. She then served as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from June to August 2006. She was voted Global Finance Minister of the Year by Euro money in 2005.
Okonjo-father, Iweala’s Professor Chukwuka Okonjo, was the Obi (king) of the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu when she was born there in the Nigerian state of Delta.
Okonjo-Iweala attended the International School in Ibadan, St. Anne’s School in Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State, and Queen’s School in Enugu for her formal education. She moved to the US in 1973 to attend Harvard University, where she earned an AB in Economics in 1976 before graduating with honors. She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a master’s in city planning in 1978 and a PhD in regional economics and development in 1981. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded her a global grant to help fund her doctoral studies.
She is married to Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. The author Uzodinma Iweala is one of their four children.
It was found that Okonjo-Iweala became a US citizen in 2019 after spending several decades working and studying there during the course of her bid to become the next Director-General of the WTO. Analysts noted that the admission will play a role in determining China’s stance toward her given the ongoing trade tensions between China and the US.