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Boss Of The Week

Biodun Shobanjo: Excellent Entrepreneur

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By Eric Elezuo

Nothing is more fulfilling in life than one to get to the pinnacle of his chosen career. At such a stage, one can conveniently say, ‘I have made it’. In the same vein, whoever is on the track towards reaching the pinnacle of his career can as well raise his head high, walk tall and smile with fulfilment.

In the life of the astute marketing communications guru, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo, who sits atop Troyka Group, having attempted, strived and reached the highest echelon of positions in his chosen career, there is so much to talk about, aspire for and pass across.

Born on December 24, 1944 in Jebba, Kwara State to a peripatetic civil servant, the man with the fancy bow tie, Biodun, imbibed a cosmopolitan worldview through his family’s ability to transverse the length and breadth of the universe. In the same vein, his early experience as a broadcaster prepared him for life as an advertiser.

He at­tended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria in the North-Western part of Nigeria, thereafter proceeding to Odogbolu Gram­mar School in the South-West. He later at­tended the College of the Institute of Mar­keting, Cookham, Maidenhead, England, where he obtained the College’s certificate in Marketing.

Quite an early riser in professionalism, Biodun Shobanjo commenced his communication career with the former Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, now Federal Radio Corporation in 1964 as a studio manager. After a seven years stint with the corporation, and having garnered requisite knowledge, he left in 1971 to seek greener pastures, and joined the American-Nigerian Agency Grant Adverting. When he made a career switch from journalism to advertising, he was not thinking of the predictions of one Mr. Olujimi, who was his teacher back in the days. According to him, Mr. Olujimi had told him pointblank:

“You can’t be a journalist… you this boy are too frank”

A lover of classic bow ties, his abilities and determination for success pushed him, and before the age of 30, he had risen to the post of Deputy Managing Director of Grant Advertising and co-founded Insight Communications (now Insight Grey) in 1979, and it began practice in 1980. With less than nothing in his booty, financially, he dared the impossible, and today, Insight is a success story. He had steadfastly grown the company from the initial 18 man strong team into an advertising behemoth.

In the years following, 1990 to be precise, he established the first PR consultancy in Nigeria, The Quadrant Company, to offer public relations services to their clients who have been asking for that communication offering.

Still in 1990, there arose the need to address account conflict resulting from referrals by satisfied clients, and like making the best of a bad situation, the situation led to the establishment of MC&A, the first Nigerian ad agency to be affiliated to the Saatchi & Saatchi global agency.

Shobanjo is a fellow of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and a Fellow of the Commonwealth Journalist Association. He is also a Member of the British Institute of Public Relations and a Chartered Member of the British Institute of Marketing. Today, he oversees the activi­ties of Troyka Holdings with many of the companies playing leading roles in their re­spective industry categories.

The Troyka Group which is the holding company for Insight Communications, Azzagai, Optimum Exposure, Media Perspective, MediaCom, The Quadrant Company and Halogen Security amongst others employs over seven thousand Nigerian men and women.

“I was young when I left Grant advertising and young people are very daring, so it didn’t cross my mind that I wouldn’t make it. Again, without meaning to be immodest, I really have never failed in my life. If you’re not used to failing you don’t even contemplate failure,” he said while attributing his success to determination and can-do attitude.

A teacher of his profession, Shobanjo had itemized four essential elements for success and he lists them as “Professionalism. The other is honour. The third is integrity. The fourth is passion. They come in any order but if you have these four things, chances are that you’re going to succeed.”

A consummate advertising and marketing communications practitioner, Biodun Shobanjo is a perfect choice for the CEO of The Apprentice Africa because as a believer in people, his business style has favoured a mentoring ambience which has spawned protégés who are leading lights of the advertising and marketing communications industry in Nigeria.

Shobanjo is a chartered member of the British Institute of Public relations and the British Institute of Marketing. He brings almost forty years of corporate experience, entrepreneurial savvy, multi-disciplinary industry experience.

In his assessment of events that have come and gone in his life, he sums up some of his career challenges as follows:

“When I look back at all the kinds of bashings that I have received in my career, I just cannot but feel sorry for myself. This is because most of those bashings were totally unjustifiable. But I would take them in my stride and say, well, I am playing a leadership role within my own organisation. If we were growing at the kind of pace at which we were, it would be expected for people who didn’t quite understand to say, why are these guys doing these things? And begin to call us all kinds of names. So I took that in my stride. I was very focused and I didn’t allow that to distract me. By the time people realised it, if you talk to my junior colleagues in the profession today, they now rise up and fight for me, that they now understand what Mr. Shobanjo was doing. What name have I not been called? But here we are today, you know Insight by far remains the leading advertising company in Nigeria.”

 

In one of the interviews he granted, he stated that “One of my role models is Dr. Christopher Kolade. I had opportunity of working with him. He is a man after my heart. The other person: I am not close to him but I see him from a distance. He is Mr. Gamaliel Onosode (now late). They are not driven by worldly things. I am not driven by worldly things. I have role models as well in our profession. There was a man I worked with, he was the CEO of BAN, and his name was Bob Jack Colby. I liked his style.

Among the many awards he had bagged is the Europe Assembly award for CEOs and companies. Shobanjo was selected because of his vision and leadership, innovativeness, creativity, professionalism, exceptional managerial skills, business ethics, company performance and effectiveness, as well as corporate social responsibility.

In the same vein, Troyka Holdings Limited also received the award for Best Enterprise of the Year at the Forum.

Sir, for your determination, resilience and success obtained on the altar of professionalism, you deserve our Boss of the Week award. Congrats!

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Boss Of The Week

Aliko Dangote: The Consistency of a Billionaire

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By Eric Elezuo

For the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and his multifaceted group, playing second fiddle has never been an option. Both the enterprise and the entrepreneur have maintained market leadership to the extent that Dangote himself has appropriated the richest man in Africa status to himself, and has hardworkingly sustained the tag for as long as anyone can remember.

Since 2014, when Forbes magazine named him the world’s 23rd billionaire, jumping 20 spots on the scale from his previous 43rd position among the elite club of the world’s richest people. Aliko Dangote has not looked back, winning back to back the accolade among African billionaires, and never slipping from the world ranking.

Again, as expected, the famous Forbes has proclaimed the soft spoken businessman as Africa’s richest man for the 12th time in a row; a proof that the name Dangote is synonymous with consistency. He is a businessman, who understands that no man rest on his oars if turnovers have to continue to turn over. With marked differentiation, he has demystified the business terrain, and proved that if it can be done, then it must done. His establishment of the humongous fertilizer and sugar plants and the ambitious refinery in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria, are testimonies of the trajectory of one who knows his onions.

Worth $13.4 by the latest Forbes ranking, which sustained him as the richest man in African for the 11th time, entrepreneur extraordinaire  has the following points to his name:

  • Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer.
  • He owns 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company.
  • Dangote Cement has the capacity to produce 48.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa.
  • After many years in development, Dangote’s fertilizer plant in Nigeria began operations in mid-2021.
  • Dangote Refinery has been under construction since 2016 and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete.

The above and many has remained the factors that have made it easy for the billionaire to remain in the top echelon of world’s money men, and the supremo among African businessmen. Like wonder he is one of the few recipients of the GCON national honours reserved for top politicians of vice president ranking and top government appointees. He has never been any of the above.

In 2021 when his 3.0 million metric tonnes of Urea per annum Dangote Fertiliser Plant, sited at the Dangote Industries Free Zone, Ibeju Lekki, was commissioned. During his speech, at The Fertiliser Complex, which occupies 500 hectares, and built at a cost of $2.5 Billion, Dangote had the following to say in his much sought after humility:

“The commissioning of this Fertiliser Plant is historic. It marks the official opening of the largest Granulated Urea Fertiliser Complex in Africa. The new plant will make Nigeria self-sufficient in fertiliser production, with excess capacity to export to other markets in Africa and the rest of the world. Our products have already reached the markets some African countries, the USA, Brazil, India and Mexico.

“It is an ambitious developmental project, which will drastically reduce the level of unemployment and youth restiveness in this country, through generation of direct and indirect employment. Agriculture accounts for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, and the country is a leading producer of various agricultural commodities. The sector has the potential of becoming the biggest source of income for our Nation, providing employment and raw materials for industries. However, low fertilizer usage has been a major reason for low productivity in the sector.

Halimat , Zainab & Fatimah Dangote

“It is common knowledge that non-availability of the product, in quantity and quality, rather than affordability, is the primary constraint to the use of fertilizer.

“Our goal is to make fertiliser available in sufficient quantities and quality for our teeming farmers assuring greater agricultural output. To help realise this potential, we are rolling out initiatives that will transform the agricultural sector, including extension services for small and medium scale farmers. We have also established well-equipped soil-testing laboratories to ensure that the appropriate fertiliser blends are applied to specific soil and/or crop types. This will boost productivity, enhancing output across the Nation.

“Dangote Fertiliser will partner with key stakeholders in the industry, including Farmer Associations, NPK Blenders, NGO/Development Partners and State Governments across Nigeria, who are committed to a sustainable approach to improving soil quality and farm yields.

“Our continuous efforts to innovate, create value and invest in Nigeria are borne out of our firm belief in the vast economic potential of our dear country. This has also informed our desire to continue with our investment strategy, with a focus on driving import substitution, ensuring that we increase local production to achieve self-sufficiency, and even export excess production.”

He proved that his entrepreneurial skills are not just geared towards uplifting him as a person, but to create an enabling environment for the Nigeria youth and child to grow and development in an environment he can proudly co-own. His vision is practically for the greater good of the world, and Nigeria in particular.

Born in Kano in 1957, Dangote proudly shuttles between three wonderful tags as the richest man in Nigeria; the richest man in Africa and the richest Black man in the world. He has paid his dues, and mankind is the better for it.

The Aliko Dangote Foundation and Impacts

Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) is the private charitable foundation of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Incorporated in 1994, as Dangote Foundation, with the mission to enhance opportunities for social change through strategic investments that improve health and wellbeing, promote quality education, and broaden economic empowerment opportunities. 20 years later, the Foundation has become the largest private Foundation in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest endowment by a single African donor.

The primary focus of ADF is child nutrition, with wraparound interventions centered on health, education and empowerment, and disaster relief. The Foundation also supports stand-alone projects with the potential for significant social impact.

The Foundation works with state and national governments and many highly reputable international and domestic charities, non-governmental organizations and international agencies to advance its humanitarian agenda.

In one of its biggest collaboration to date, Aliko Dangote Foundation started working in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and key northern State Governments in Nigeria from 2013 to eradicate polio and strengthen routine immunization in Nigeria.

His commitment to the health and wellbeing of the world is second to none, and it is on record that his CSR in the health sector has transcended numerals. The ADF, beyond the health sector, has made landmark achievements in the field of education, where it has affected the development of educational infrastructures of many tertiatiary institutions including Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Bayero University Kano; Kano State University of Science & Technology, Wudil and University of Ibadan. The construction of a N1.2 Billion Dangote Business School, Bayero University Kano, Kano State, construction of a N1.2 Billion Dormitories in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, construction of Dormitories and provision of power supply to Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil, Kano State at the cost of N500 Million, construction of Dormitories in Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State, and construction of Aliko Dangote Complex within the premises of University of Ibadan Business School, Ibadan, Oyo State, are just few examples.

Additionally, the ADF has engaged in Economic Empowerment at various levels through the Aliko Dangote Foundation Micro-grant programme, which is a N10 Billion national programme, launched in 2011, and designed to provide a N10,000 one-off grant to at least 1,000 vulnerable women, and in some cases, youths, in each of the 774 LGAs across Nigeria.

Worthy of praise is the fact that for the past seven years, the Foundation has spent over N7 Billion in the course of feeding, clothing and the general welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons in the Northeast. Dangote’s efforts at providing relief has drawn a lot of accolades.

Aliko Dangote Foundation was there in 2014 to help the government to contain the Ebola virus outbreak as well as when there ethnic crisis in Ife in 2017.

Rightly addressed as an international philanthropist, Dangote’s interventions are felt across the world. Some of the are building and equipping of Children’s hospital in Abidjan, Grand Heart Foundation – Chad, ONE Campaign, Emergency response to meningitis outbreak in Niger Republic, Donation of mobile clinics to serve 5 counties in Kenya, Emergency response to victims of earthquake in Nepal, Global Business Coalition for Education, and Sustainable Development Goal – Center for Africa – Rwanda.

More CSRs by the Dangote Group

To make his host communities feel at ease, and the impact of his presence, Dangote has embarked on an initiative to provide further support to improving educational systems in Ibeju-Lekki and Epe locality. The educational support initiative is a tripartite programme consisting of scholarship, capacity building for teachers and school infrastructure projects.

In addition, Scholarships have been awarded to 52 secondary school students whilst some financial support was provided to their parents and/or guardians. Tertiary students will be included in the next batch of the scheme.

Furthermore, about 100 teachers, principals and school administrators were trained in teaching techniques for the 21st century. After which they were monitored in class on how they were using the skills acquired.

Still on education, the company plans to renovate existing structures, building new schools, donating school furniture and equipment etc. This component of the education support initiative is on the verge of taking off.

Already, it has constructed a block of 6 classrooms with restroom facilities and staff rooms. This was handed over at a formal ceremony in December 2020.

Youth development was also an area it took seriously. 400 local youths have been trained in two batches of 200 beneficiaries per batch. They are being trained on acquiring vocational skills such as plumbing, masonry, welding, iron bending, auto mechanics and electrical works. First batch of trainees graduated in September 2020 and some of them have been engaged; 2nd batch of trainees will graduate in February 2021.

It also organized programmes to build the capacity of local institutions such as the Community Development Committee (CDC), Project Implementation Committee(PIC), local leaders, youth leaders etc. on various subject areas such as stakeholder engagement, advocacy, networking, conflict resolution and negotiation, presentation skills, influx and impact of influx etc.

There is hardly any sector that has not felt the milk of human kindness running through Aliko Dangote; the military, media, politicians, governments across boards and more.

Dangote is surely an asset to this world!

As at today, there is no space for slowing down for Dangote as he continues to trudge on, creating firsts after first for himself and for humanity. He is blessed with three wonderful daughters, who have followed the rewarding footprints of entrepreneurship.

Fellow billionaire and friend, Femi Otedola, during one Dangote’s birthday’s encapsulated his entrepreneurial prowess as follows: “Happy Birthday to the greatest man that has come out of Africa. My brother, the visionary owner of the 2nd largest sugar refinery in the world, the largest cement factory in the world, the 2nd largest fertiliser plant in the world this is due for completion and the biggest oil refinery in the world. Aliko Dangote, is a titan that God created specially for mankind. You have broken every boundary in worldwide  business and industry. Thanks for the brotherly love”

Dangote is that, and much more!

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Boss Of The Week

Behold the Sarauniya of Ilorin Emirate: Hajia Muinat Bola Shagaya

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By Eric Elezuo

Honour, no doubt, is meant for whomever honour is due. It was therefore, no fluke when the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Mai-Martaba Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari CFR, announced the appointment of Hajia Muinat Bola Shagaya as the Sarauniya of Ilorin Emirate. This is one appointment the general public has seen as who the cap fits.

The Emir made the announcement at the 57th Annual National Conference of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) held on Sunday where notable sons and daughters of the Kwara State and friends and well wishers were in attendance. At the occasion, the ebullient Hajia Bola Shagaya donated whopping N10m in support of the IEDPU project.

Among the dignitaries that graced the event were the Emir of Ilorin Dr. Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior and Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Shuaib Belgore; Ilorin Emirate Council of Chiefs; Chief Imam Ilorin Sheikh Mohammed Bashir Soliu; and other Imams and Islamic scholars; Grand Mufti of Ilorin Sheikh Suleiman Faruq Onikijipa; Turakin Ilorin Mallam Saliu Mustapha; National President for IEDPU, Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman; Registrar of JAMB, Prof Is-haq Oloyede; Vice Chancellor University of Abuja, Prof Abdulrosheed Na’Allah; businesswoman and Zaraniya Ilorin Hajia Muina Sagaya; former Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin Prof. Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem; Executive Director for National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM) Engr. A. R Kamal; guest speaker Sheikh Abdulwahab Banni Afonta; and dozens of dignitaries and sons and daughters of Ilorin Emirate.

Bola, as she is popularly known, is beautiful, elegant, famous, enchanting and above all down to earth. She is a woman of means and is renowned for her extraordinary generosity. She is above all, quintessential in all ramifications.

Shagaya, unlike most prominent and wealthy industrialists, was not born with the proverbial silver spoon. Consequently, she had to pull herself up by her bootstraps and exert herself relentlessly through some difficult times on her way to arriving at the enviable height she now occupies. Her remarkable accomplishments have since earned her a pride of place at the table of royals and captured the attention of the influential Forbes magazine. She made the 10th wealthiest woman spot in Africa in a 2015 Forbes ranking.

The socialite, who will be 62 on October 10, was born in 1959 in Kwara State, her home town. She attended Queens School in Ilorin for her secondary education and the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and Armstrong College in California, where she studied Economics and Accountancy respectively. Shagaya also attended Harvard Business School and a number of other local and international seminars, workshops and symposiums where she sharpened her skills and gained all the cutting-edge knowledge that has kept her on top of her entrepreneurial and social game.

Fresh out of school, a promising career took off with a stint at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where she worked with the Audit Department. Having acquired veritable experience from the CBN, she ventured into commercial activities in 1983, beginning with the importation and distribution of photographic materials under one of her incorporated companies called Bolmus. She is reputed to have introduced the Konica brand of photographic materials into the Nigerian market and West Africa.

She is also the owner of Fotofair Nigeria limited, and her photo laboratory unit in Victoria Island is no doubt one of the largest photo laboratories in Nigeria. The photo laboratory has a net base of over thirty branches located in different parts of the country and over 300 workers employed. A great feat!

Her prowess is not limited to the business of photographic materials alone, Hajia Bola Shagaya is also the Managing Director of Practoil Limited, one of the largest importers and distributors of base oil in Nigeria, serving local lubricant blending plants. Not only that, her extensive acumen in the world of buying and selling finds expression in huge investments in real estate, spanning major cities in the country with over 300 employees.

She is proactive and visionary, and so through her base oil importation, she is meeting the need of the local lubricant blending plants. At the moment, Practoil is building its own plant at Kirikiri, Lagos State. The plant is expected to produce multi-grade oils and lubricants.

An astute financial wizard, Mrs. Shagaya is on the board of Unity Bank (Nigeria) Plc (formerly Intercity Bank) and has been for about a decade. She is also a member of the NEPAD Business Group, Nigeria.

She is a reputed fashionista, and her consistent display of an impeccable dress sense is a testimony to that assertion. It is therefore, not surprising that she is a patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) and a fashion and arts enthusiast who supports and encourages the fashion and arts industry. She also loves sports, especially polo. She is also hopelessly in love with exotic jewelry, especially diamonds, and Deola Sagoe, Folake Coker, Maureen Onigbanjo, Abba Folawiyo are just a few of her clothiers. Internationally, there are also Escada and Christian Lacroix.

In July 2010, she was conferred with the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR).

A committed family woman; wife and mother, she is married to Alhaji Ganiyu Shagaya, a Kwara State-based transporter and their union is blessed with four children, among whom is Sheriff Shagaya, who got married in 2013 to Maryam Tukur, the daughter renowned politician, Bamanga Tukur. Kabir, her fourth son, also married into a notable when he wedded Amina Buba, daughter of oil magnate, Dr Hanatu Buba Each of her five sons are reportedly doing incredibly well in their fields of endeavours. It is said that they inherited their mothers entrepreneurial skills, business acumen and accommodating mien.

A very liberal woman, her third child, Seun, is a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Abuja in as much as his mother is a Muslim.

Though a socialite who loves reveling, Mrs. Shagaya knows when to open the door and when to keep it closed. It was gathered from an interview she once granted that as a rule she doesn’t entertain friendly visitations, no matter how close, between Monday and Friday. Consequently, everything social revolves around the weekends when major work has been done. That accounts for her serious-mindedness, focus and hard work.

A friend of several Nigerian First Ladies, Mrs. Shagaya is known to have been close to virtually every recent First Lady in the Nigerian political system, especially Dame Patience Jonathan, with whom she forged a formidable relationship. It is believed that her amiable nature, down to earth attitude and uprightness always endear her to the hearts of those in the corridor of power.

A staunch Muslim, she believes that no matter what one becomes, God will always remain number one, and the revolving factor in her life. As a result, no matter where she is or what she’s doing, she makes it a duty to go to Mecca at least twice a year. She also creates time to observe her ‘Majrib’.

“That’s my only way to praise God”, she said.

The stupendously rich amazon, who owns property in choice parts of the world including London, Abuja, Lagos, Ilorin and so on, maintains a healthy routine of going to bed every day at 9pm after listening to the 8 O’clock news, and wakes up daily by 5am to pray.

Bola Shagaya is a crown jewel in the swelling ranks of African women who have demystified the stereotyped notion that the place of the woman is, and ends in the kitchen or ‘the other room’. In her continued display of business ingenuity, she has showcased the stuff women like her are made of while proving that females are capable of threading the paths that even some men would not dare venture.

Congratulations dear Sarauniya of Ilorin Emirate!

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Boss Of The Week

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Africa’s Most Powerful Woman

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By Eric Elezuo

For the sixth time in her meritorious career, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been recognised. This time, the former Nigeria’s Minister of the Economy, who is fond and proud of her traditional ankara attire, was named one of Forbes’s World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2022. The accomplished financial expert will be one of those that would be presented with the honour on 16th of February 2023, at a ceremony scheduled to be held in Port Louis, Mauritius during the 11th edition of the award.

Okonjo-Iweala reportedly polled over 60 percent of the 15,000 votes in the category of the African Leadership Person of thee Year Award at the close of the poll on 2nd of December 2022. These categories are vote-based and reserved yearly for leading Africans who are making positive impacts and promoting a favourable image of the continent.

Forbes, an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family with a particular focus on business, technology, communications, science, politics, and law, while making the declaration, said, “The World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (No. 91 of 100) continue to play a crucial role in providing financial assistance and promoting global trade as the threat of a global recession rises.”

It added: Okojo-Iweala is “an economist and international development professional with more than 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.”

In 2021, Okonjo-Iweala was recognized by another media platform, Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people for the year under review.

According to Forbes, Okonjo-Iweala is “An economist and international development professional, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has more than 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America,” the magazine said.

“In March 2021, she became first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

“She has said she believes in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty help them achieve sustainable development.

“Earlier in her career, Okonjo-Iweala had two terms as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015; she also briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006.

“She was also Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that has immunized 760 million children globally.”

According to Wikipedia, Okonjo-Iweala was born on June 13, 1954 in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria where her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo is the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.

Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. She arrived in the US in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. In 1981, she earned her Ph.D in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), that supported her doctoral studies.

Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a Development Economist, scaling the ranks to the Number two position of Managing Director, Operations between 2007 and 2011. She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. She also had a stint in the external affairs ministry as minister.

She is a seasoned economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

She is married to Dr. Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children – one daughter, Onyinye Iweala (AB, MD, PhD, Harvard) and three sons, Uzodinma Iweala (AB, Harvard, MD, Columbia), Okechukwu Iweala (AB, Harvard) and Uchechi Iweala (AB, MD, MBA, Harvard).

Okonjo-Iweala became a US citizen in 2019 after spending several decades working and studying in the United States. Among an avalanche of high class honours trailing her, Okonjo-Iweala is also the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organisation, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja.

In 2012, Okonjo-Iweala contested for Presidency of the World Bank. She lost to Jim Yong Kim. Eight years in-between in November 2020, she contested the DG position of the World Trade Centre, and emerged winner.

Reacting, an excited Okonjp-Iweala said: “An honour and a privilege to be part of this list of a very distinguished group of women for the 6th time in my career, Congratulations to my other sisters. Let’s continue to show that good governance, good public policy and a people-centered approach to work matters.”

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