World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick last week announced that Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be leaving the bank in mid-August to return to Nigeria to take up a senior post as Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance in the new Government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Ngozi’s contribution as Managing Director has been stellar. Her desire to serve her country is truly a big loss for the World Bank but a major gain for Nigeria as it works to craft its economic way forward,” Zoellick said.
“In her time as Managing Director, Ngozi has proven her determination and enormous capacity to work in the interests of poor people in developing countries around the globe. In this regard, we are grateful to Ngozi for the numerous times she has represented the bank in global forums.
“Given Ngozi’s passionate advocacy for the poor and her belief in Africa’s promise and growth, it can come as no surprise that Ngozi now wants to turn her sharp intellect, and considerable economic and managerial skills to the challenges facing her own country, Nigeria, “ he said.
“We are truly proud that Ngozi is choosing to support her country in this way. Nigeria is fortunate to have someone of Ngozi’s stature,” Zoellick added. “I want to thank Ngozi for her leadership, drive and impact – she’s been a big part of the ‘new’ World Bank.”
Along with her role of special oversight for the bank’s work in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, Okonjo-Iweala also played a pivotal role in overseeing the bank’s continuing work to help countries adversely impacted by high and volatile food prices – effectively managing the bank’s own food crisis fund – which has helped more than 40 million people in 44 countries.
Okonjo-Iweala skilfully and successfully chaired the latest round of replenishment for the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the International Development Association (IDA) – helping to raise a record US$ 49.3 billion. Okonjo-Iweala is internationally recognised for her role as a strong advocate of gender issues. Her creativity has led to the development of initiatives in the World Bank for the recovery of stolen assets and South-South cooperation.
Prior to accepting the position of Managing Director at the World Bank is 2007, Okonjo-Iweala was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. From July 2003 to June 2006, she served as Finance Minister of Nigeria and later, the Foreign Affairs Minister.
As Minister of Finance, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors in 2005 that led to the wiping out of US$ 30 billion of Nigeria’s external debt, including outright cancellation of US$18 billion.
She built a reputation as a corruption fighter and opened the government finances to public scrutiny, by publishing federal monthly financial allocations to the states and local governments in the newspapers.
Previously she had a 21 year career as a development economist at the World Bank, working in a number of different capacities, including as a country director in the East Asia region, director of operations in the Middle East, and Vice President and Corporate Secretary.