March 18, 2016


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria, also served as a managing director of the World Bank.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria, also served as a managing director of the World Bank.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria and World Bank managing director who is now a senior adviser at the investment bank Lazard and chair of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, will be the featured speaker at SIPA’s May 2016 graduation.

“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is among the most recognized and influential global leaders and thinkers on economic development, international organizations, and the future of Africa,” said Dean Merit E. Janow. “We very much look forward to hearing her thoughts and perspectives on global challenges, leadership, public service, Africa, and many other timely topics of interest to our community.”

From 2011 to 2015, Okonjo-Iweala led Nigeria’s ministry of finance, with an expanded portfolio as coordinating minister for the nation’s economy—which is Africa’s largest. She had previously served her home nation as finance minister from 2003 to 2006, and also as foreign minister for a brief period in 2006, making her the first woman to hold either position.

As managing director of the World Bank from 2007 to 2011, Okonjo-Iweala oversaw an $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, Europe, and South and Central Asia. She spearheaded major initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008-2009 food crisis and to increase grants and access to low interest credit.

Her distinguished record of public service includes work as chair or member of several international boards and high level global development initiatives, including the UN’s Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals High Level Panel, the Post-Busan Global Partnership for Development Effectiveness, the Rockefeller Foundation, the ONE Foundation, and the African Union’s African Risk Capacity.

Okonjo-Iweala was recognized as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine in 2015, and among the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time in 2014. Her many additional awards include honorary degrees from Yale, Penn, and Brown, and a Global Leadership Award from SIPA in 2010.

She is also the author of several books and articles, including Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria (2012, MIT). Okonjo-Iweala earned an AB magna cum laude from Harvard University and a PhD in regional economics and development from MIT.

As in years past, the selection was informed by a SIPASA-administered survey that collected student input on possible graduation speakers.

“Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s experience at the World Bank and in the Nigerian government make her a great choice as the graduation speaker,” said Ajith Das Menon MPA ’16, who was involved in the search process as then-president of SIPASA. “We are looking forward to hearing more about her experiences and are eager for her advice before we step out into the real world.”