Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO)

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the first woman and first African to hold the position in the 75-year history of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the WTO. 

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development expert with more than 40 years of experience, whose service includes Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (2016–2020), the African Union’s African Risk Capacity Group (2014–2020), and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Rockefeller Foundation. She co-chaired the G20 High Level Independent Panel on Financing for Pandemic Preparedness and was one of the founders of the COVAX Facility, designed to get affordable vaccines to Low and Low Middle-Income Countries. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the World Economic Forum and is co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water. She is also a member of the G30 Group of top 30 people in International Finance and the council of the Prince of Wales’s initiative Earthshot Prize. 

Dr Okonjo-Iweala holds the distinction of being the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, a post she held for seven years in two terms. She also served briefly as the first female Foreign Affairs Minister. As Finance Minister, she implemented policy and institutional reforms to help fight corruption and she spearheaded the complete write off by the Paris Club of $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt. She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank, rising to the number two position of Managing Director, Operations. Previously Dr Okonjo-Iweala, among other duties, served as Senior Advisor at Lazard Ltd. and sat on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank PLC and Twitter Inc. She served in 2020 as African Union COVID-19 Special Envoy as well as World Health Organization COVID 19 Special Envoy.  

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is the recipient of numerous honors and accolades. She was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019 and featured in the Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2011 and 2012. She was also listed among 73 “brilliant” business influencers in the world by Condé Nast International and received the Alumnae Recognition Award from the American Association of University Women in 2022. She was named in 2014 and again in 2021, one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. She was also featured on the TIME magazine cover page in 2021. She has been named six times by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World and in 2020, was named Forbes African of the Year. In 2021, she was named by Financial Times as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in the World. Dr Okonjo-Iweala was ranked by Fortune as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders in 2015.  

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is the recipient of 21 honorary degrees from some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, including Tel Aviv University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, USA, Brown University, University of Amsterdam, Luiss University, Italy, Trinity College Dublin, American University, and Nyenrode Business University. She is also the recipient of Nigeria’s second highest National Honor Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) in 2022. She has been awarded national honours by the government of the Republic of Liberia and from the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire in 2016. She also received the Grand Cross of the Order of Rio Branco from the Federative Republic of Brazil in 2023.  

She is the author of several books, including Reforming the UnReformable: Lessons from Nigeria, (MIT Press, 2012), Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (MIT Press, 2018), The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (Africa World Press, 2003), and Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons co-authored with Julia Gillard (Penguin Random House, July 2020). She has also published numerous articles, including Rethinking Multilateralism for a Pandemic Era (Finance and Development Magazine, 2021), Nigeria’s Shot at Redemption (Finance and Development Magazine, 2008), Mobilizing Finance for Education in the Commonwealth (Commonwealth Education Report 2019), and Shine a Light on the Gaps — an essay on financial inclusion for African Small Holder Farmers (Foreign Affairs, 2015). 

Dr Okonjo-Iweala holds a Bachelor’s in Economics Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).