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Another Laurel for Okonjo-Iweala at Harvard 

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Discussing Women in Global Health with amazing Victoria Budson and Women students and fellows. Also puzzling over challenges and opportunities for Africa with an incredible set of African Mason Fellows. Photo: TWITTER/NOIWEALA

Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was recently named the next Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. This is a rare honour, which recognises exceptional leadership performance that contributes to human development.

Okonjo-Iweala will join the club of previous recipients including Mexico’s former President Felipe Calderon and Juan Manuel Santos, President of the Republic of Columbia, among others.

Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment was announced by the Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, Mr. Douglas Elmendorf. According to him, in a statement, “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will bring to the Kennedy School a wealth of practical experience and insights into the development challenges and achievements in Africa and across the developing world.

“As the longest-serving finance minister in Nigeria and a leader at World Bank for more than two decades, she engineered successful new approaches to fostering sustained and inclusive growth in developing countries. She will enrich our campus conversation on the public policy choices needed for effective governance that serves societies.”

Discussing Women in Global Health with amazing Victoria Budson and Women students and fellows. Also puzzling over challenges and opportunities for Africa with an incredible set of African Mason Fellows. Photo: TWITTER/NOIWEALA


In October 2019, Okonjo-Iweala delivered the Robert S. McNamara Lecture on War and Peace in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Kennedy School. The elated Okonjo-Iweala then said: ”I am honoured to be able to return to the Kennedy School as the Angelopoulos Fellow, and work with students and faculty who are wrestling every day with the world’s most complex development problems.”

Okonjo-Iweala was the longest-serving finance minister in Nigeria and the first woman to hold that position. She was also the first female foreign minister, driving systematic financial reforms and strengthened fiscal transparency to fight corruption and tripled the country’s growth rate. She negotiated the landmark $30 billion reductions in Nigeria’s external debt.

In her 25-year career at the World Bank, she rose to the No. 2 position of managing director of operations and oversaw the development portfolio for South Asia, Africa, Europe and Central Asia.

A magna cumlaude graduate of Harvard University (1976), Okonjo-Iweala earned her doctorate from MIT and has been awarded 15 honourary degrees.

She was recognised as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine for four years in a row, and by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

Okonjo-Iweala is currently chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has immunised over 760 million children in the developing world against infectious diseases. She is also co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. 

Without doubt, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is among a few individuals who have brought fame to Nigeria in particular and Africa at large, through untainted service to humanity and the fatherland. Her activities, at all times, burnish the image of Nigeria.

The Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Programme was established with support from Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens 2014 Olympics, former ambassador of Greece, lawyer, and recently appointed chair of “Greece 2021.”

The programme provides opportunities for high-profile public leaders who are transitioning from office or other leadership roles to spend time in residence at Harvard Kennedy School reflecting, teaching, learning and conducting research.

During her time at the Kennedy School, Okonjo-Iweala will meet with students and scholars as well as lecture, write, and participate in public discussions and forums. By this appointment, Okonjo_Iweala becomes the fifth Angelopoulos Global Leaders Fellow since the programme was established in 2011. 

Previous fellows are Juan Manuel Santos, former president of Columbia; Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations; Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland; and Felipe Calderon, former president of Mexico.

We congratulate Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on this great honour bestowed on her and wish her a fruitful tenure at the prestigious institution.


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