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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: The Indomitable African Princess

Excellence has a voice, a very loud one at that and can be heard even from the farthest distance. Most times, its strong African voice is heard solid and strong, ever unbeatable. Kudos to Mother Africa, the womb that has carried great warriors, super innovators and mind blowing reformations; extremely hardworking and yet never grows weary, undoubtedly confident and never conceited.  She has birthed great giants in our time who will not relent in making an indelible mark in the world.

One of these great  giants is this African princess whose voice is being heard beyond our great Continent; one that delights in breaking boundaries and in fact moving great mountains, and most of all making Africa proud. Always doing what she knows how to do best and even devotedly.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

She has fought the cause for Africa and has since gained the mastery, strong and determined by all standards or judgment. This great icon Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born into the royal family of Umu Obi Obahai of Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, Nigeria and was educated at Harvard University where she graduated Magna cum laude with an A.B in 1977. She earned her Ph.D. in Regional Economic Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

This woman of excellence has made noticeable and extremely substantial reformations that have not only brightened her country but have touched the world in very obvious ways. Her first reception into the World Bank came through her internship program where she gathered enough experience and eventually gained strong footing when she was admitted into the team of the World Bank elites. She enjoyed a career boom in the World Bank as a development economist and was also the Vice President and Corporate Secretary. This work package included two tours of duty, the first six years working in the East Asia Region and then the last tour from 1997 to 2000. She worked as Country Director of Malaysia, Mongolia, Laos and Cambodia during the East Asian financial crisis and in the Middle East as the Director of Operations (Deputy Vice-President).  Okonjo-Iweala also served as the Director of Institutional Change and Strategy; a position that allowed her the opportunity to assist the implementation of the bank’s reform agenda. She contested for the World Bank presidency, and although she did not get there, she was never discouraged.

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In October 2005, this epitome of true leadership led the Nigerian team that struck a deal with the Paris club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a part of Nigeria’s external debt (US $12 billion) in return for an $18 billion debt write-off. Prior to the partial debt payment and write-off, Nigeria spent roughly US $1 billion every year on debt servicing, yet never made a dent in the principal owed.

It was through this great woman’s initiative that Nigerian States began the practice of publishing their monthly financial allocation from the federal government in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance. She was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s.

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Her life and career took a new turn on October 4, 2007, when World Bank President Robert Zoellick appointed her to the post of Managing Director, effective December 1, 2007. This was after she resigned as Nigeria’s foreign minister in August 2006, following her sudden removal as head of Nigeria’s Economic Team; this I can tell was no work of chance but an orchestration of destiny.

In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was reappointed as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, but this time with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. This was definitely not an easy time for the Princess who was never one to fail in time of adversity; she took a lot of heat, for the fuel subsidy removal policy by the Nigerian government which led to Occupy Nigeria protests in January 2012.

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This African giant has a bag spilling over with great awards and Doctorates. She was awarded the Silverbird ‘Man’ of the Year in 2012, Euromoney Magazine Global Finance Minister of the Year in 2005, Time Europe Hero in 2004, This Day Nigeria Minister of the Year also in 2004 and then the prestigious award for Nigerian of the Year in 2006. She also got Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland and The Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville, Jamaica, to mention just a few.

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On July 11 2013, Africa will witness the presentation of the 2013 Economic Report of Africa by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME) and Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA). To assist her in the presentation, which holds at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja is Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director, Macro-Economic Policy Division of UNECA.The report which is the joint initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union Commission (AUC) sees commodity-based industrialisation as an engine of growth for Africa, and focuses on taking advantage of Africa’s commodities to industrialise the continent in a bid to produce growth, jobs and economic transformation.

Valiant, fearless and truly indomitable, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stands as living proof that indeed, what a man can do, a woman…

Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor
Lovelyn Okafor is a Journalist/Writer, Poet, Lawyer and God-Lover. She enjoys a good read and sees everyday as an opportunity to live and enjoy her calling whilst working towards perfecting it. She believes that someday soon, Africa will reach her full potential as the light-bearer of the world. You can find her on Twitter: @lovelyn_o

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