Okonjo-Iweala is from Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.
Okonjo-Iweala was educated at St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, the International School Ibadan and Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976, and earned her PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.
She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from Umuahia, Abia State, and they have four children.
Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was the first female to hold both positions. During her first term as Minister of Finance under President Obasanjo’s Administration, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt,
including the outright cancellation of US$18 billion.In 2003 she led efforts to improve Nigeria’s macroeconomic management including the implementation of an oil-price based fiscal rule where revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price were saved in a special account, “The Excess Crude Account” which helped to reduce macroeconomic volatility.
She also introduced the practice of publishing each state’s monthly financial allocation from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the newspapers. This action went a long way in increasing transparency in governance. With the support of the World Bank and the IMF to the Federal Government of Nigeria, she helped build an electronic financial management platform-the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), helping to curtail corruption in the process. As at 31 December 2014, the IPPIS platform for example had eliminated 62,893 ghost workers from the system and saved the Nigerian government about $1.25 billion in the process.
Okonjo-Iweala was also instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s in 2006.
Following her first term as Minister of Finance, she returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007. Okonjo-Iweala had also previously spent the first 21 years of her career as a development economist at the World Bank. As Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.
In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was reappointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. Her legacy includes strengthening Nigeria’s public financial systems, stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC). She also empowered Nigeria’s women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender responsive budgeting system and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); a highly acclaimed programme to support entrepreneurs that created thousands of jobs.
In September 2015, she joined Lazard as a Senior Advisor and in January 2016 she was appointed Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
She is co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman. In July 2017, she was named the independent non-executive director at standard Chartered PLC, which will be effective from November 1, 2017