Ngozi Okonjo Iweala


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Wednesday, July 15, in Geneva stressed the need for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to elect a credible candidate based on merit for the position of Director-General.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who is one of the eight candidates vying for the position, was interviewed by reporters at a press conference held shortly after her presentation to the WTO General Council.

She stated that the best candidate should be chosen for the position, irrespective of their gender, race, or country of origin.

She said: “Choosing a Director-General for WTO should be on merit. The best person should be chosen to lead an institution that’s having challenges.

“If it happens to be a woman, great. If it happens to be an African it’s also great. It should be based on merit.”

Extolling the qualities which make her well suited for the job, she said: “The WTO needs leadership and I’m someone with a strong managerial capability with the ability to forge consensus and reforms.

“These bundles of qualities in addition to my leadership quality is what I’m bringing to the WTO.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria, co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis, a tragedy that is all at once fast and slow-moving, personal and global. The virus has killed more than 150,000 people. Livelihoods have been hit hard as communities are cut off and businesses are forced to close. Country leaders are understandably looking for ways to stimulate their economies immediately.

During a crisis of this scale, it is understandable to the familiar. But, for their own sakes, governments must avoid defaulting to familiar investment habits – namely, ramping up production and use of high carbon emitting fuels.

The pandemic, together with the Saudi-Russia oil price tussle last month, have had a stark impact on oil markets. Oil futures recently went negative for the first time in history. This has highlighted how vulnerable countries with fossil fuel-dependent economies are to volatile fuel prices: in Sub-Saharan Africa, oil exporting nations could lose up to $65 billion in revenues in 2020 as crude oil prices continue to tumble. Even before COVID-19, the global transition to a low-carbon economy was sparking a decline in oil prices. The pandemic has only exacerbated this trend, underscoring the need for diversifying these countries’ economies.

This is the time to invest in diversifying the economy, to build resilience to future shocks, not lock-in further dependence on fossil fuels. Conversely, investing in renewables and better grids in many countries will enable wider access to energy and greater self-reliance, enabling countries to take control of their economic prospects and insulate themselves from whimsical oil and gas markets.

Efforts to boost economic growth out of this health crisis in a way that locks in more fossil fuel production and use will only exacerbate other health crises, including the ongoing climate crisis and air pollution crisis. This will have dire implications for communities through more frequent and severe natural disasters, and more rapid spread of infectious diseases due to climate change.

Climate-induced changes in the movement patterns of humans, animals and pathogens will make viral outbreaks more common. This is just one big reason why we must respond to COVID-19 by building back better in terms of economies that are resilient to future shocks and accelerating the transition to inclusive, low-carbon growth.

Moving away from fossil fuels is challenging, particularly in developing and emerging economies with pressing development needs. Before COVID-19 was a household name, Africa was already working to bring over 400 million people out of poverty and over 200 million out of hunger.

Some countries, including my own Nigeria, are reliant on oil and gas production to help finance these social gains. A careful and just management of the low-carbon economic transition is essential, to avoid stranded industries, communities and workers, exacerbating inequality.

A better future, where all jobs are green and decent, poverty is eradicated, workers are supported, and communities are thriving and resilient across all sectors of the economy, starts with a just transition today. That means working closely with affected workers and communities to ensure they benefit from the new economy that will emerge, while also directly investing in more diverse, clean energy alternatives and avoiding propping up failing oil and gas operations.

As the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare, robust social protection policies and programmes are essential to meet basic needs during periods of unemployment, re-training or education. A just transition means diversifying local economies, generating new industries, new services and building new essential skills across the workforce and adaptive capacity across communities to ensure they are resilient and benefit from a new climate economy. This will require new types of policies and accompanying investment.

Many wealthy regions are already supporting a just transition. Last year, Germany approved a $45 billion aid package for the nation’s coal regions and companies to support the transition to make the country coal-free by 2038. And the European Commission’s Green Deal, now a cornerstone of the EU’s COVID-19 response, includes a €100 billion ‘Just Transition Mechanism’ to help retrain workers who lose jobs in shuttered coal mines or steel factories. Other countries are approving similar funding packages, but none of them include aid for the transition in developing nations.

Now more than ever, rich countries must support the developing world in the pursuit of a healthy and prosperous future for all. This is the time when we can and must design a new social contract, and demonstrate solidarity with the communities that are the most vulnerable. We must apply every tool at our disposal to advance responses to the pandemic that secure incomes and jobs, address the immediate health needs, and promote a just transition forward toward an inclusive, low-carbon and resilient economy.

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the climate crossroads the world was already facing. This terrible moment in history demands us to build back better. The world’s larger economies have a responsibility to lead the charge. Fortunately, low-carbon solutions are cheaper and more available than ever before. The New Climate Economy finds that bold climate action could deliver $26 trillion in economic benefits between now and 2030, and these benefits would start immediately. It could also generate over 65 million jobs in 2030.

We are living in uncertain and frightening times. But we must be brave. We must aim to do more than survive, we must thrive. We must improve lives by shifting away from dirty, carbon-intensive industries. Low-income regions cannot do this alone. The world’s developed economies must invest in a better way, a more just way. This is the challenge of our lifetimes.

IMF’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, had announced Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment into the 12-member team on Friday in a statement.

The former minister of finance, was recently announced as a member of South Africa’s presidential economic advisory council.

According to the statement, the new group will provide perspectives from around the globe on key developments and policy issues, including policy responses to the exceptional challenges the world now faces due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its economic impact.

“Even before the spread of COVID-19 and the dramatic health, economic, and financial disruptions it has brought, IMF members confronted a rapidly evolving world and complex policy issues,” stated Ms Georgieva ,

“To serve our membership well in this context, we need top-notch input and expertise from the widest range of sources, inside and outside the Fund.

“Toward this end, I am proud that an exceptional and diverse group of eminent individuals with high-level policy, market, and private sector experience has agreed to serve on my External Advisory Group.

“Today we had a dynamic discussion to gain their insights, and to receive informal reactions to our ideas and approaches,” she added.

The advisory group is expected to meet a few times in a year with the IMF’s Managing Director, Deputy Managing Directors, and a sub-set of IMF department Directors.

Here are the list of the Managing Director’s External Advisory Group below:

Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister of Nigeria

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of Singapore and Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore

Ms Kristin Forbes, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mr Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia

Lord Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

Mr Feike Sijbesima, Honorary Chair, DSM, Former CEO, Royal DSM

Mr Raghuram Rajan, Professor, University of Chicago

Ms Ana Botín, Group Executive Chairman, Santander

Ms Carmen Reinhart, Professor, Harvard University

Mr Mohamed A. El-Erian, Chief Economic Adviser, Allianz

Mr Scott Minerd, Chief Investment Officer, Guggenheim Investments

Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Chair of ActionAid International

Okonjo-Iweala was also recently announced as a member of South Africa’s presidential economic advisory council.


Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, has urged the Federal Government to take steps to bring back Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to serve the country.

Gbagi said Dr. Ngozi wealth of experience, as a consummate economist, can help pull the country out of doldrums and comatose.

Dr. Ngozi who was former minister of finance got recently appointed as a member of the South African Presidential Economic Advisory Council. She is known as a good thought leader in Finance.

Gbagi said, “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is one Nigerian who has upheld the good image and integrity of the country on an international scale, bringing to bear her immense wealth of experience and expertise.

“There is no arrogance in getting someone to do what you do not know how to do. The reason the country is at a crossroads today, against the norm obtainable in other countries with tested technocrats without blemish, is due to the unbridled attitude of getting people who can hardly run a community of 30 people to run a government.

“This is the singular reason the nation is stagnant.

“We have qualified men and women and if we must get it right, they must be given the avenue to tender their best because no matter how much of a hue and cry we engage in, life and time are running out.

“The clock is ticking and no sensible human being will allow his God’s given gift to be wasted by jokers.

“Hence, if you allow a man, who has no investment in any form or shape, to take charge of a serious-minded venture such as governance and leadership, we would run into problems.”

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who is an international development expert, had served two terms as finance minister of Nigeria (2003-2006, 2011-2015) under former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan respectively.

Former president Jonathan, in a post via his Facebook page, expressed delight in her new appointment.

He said, “I congratulate Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who served as the coordinating minister for the economy/finance minister in my cabinet, on her appointment as a member of South Africa’s Presidential Economic Advisory Council.”

“As a two-time minister in Nigeria, you left indelible marks as an astute manager of the nation’s economy and resources. I am delighted that you have continued to place your substantial wealth of experience as a development economist at the service of many nations and international organisations to aid global growth and progress.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you will excel in the new assignment,” Mr Jonathan said.

Congratulations to her!