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Money Lessons You Can Learn From Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The IWD season is a great time to celebrate some iconic women who have contributed to bridging the inequality gap. Marked annually on March 8, this year’s theme, #EmbraceEquity is depicted with photos of individuals embracing themselves. This is to denote hat equity begins from within.


Difference between equity and equality explained.

Belgium-based YouTuber Tamara Makoni- founder of Kazuri Consulting, vividly explains the concept of equity as against equality. In her analogy, she created an image of two hungry children who would like a snack. However, one of the children is allergic to apples.

Instead of feeding both children apples or bananas, a show of equality, you reach for one apple and one banana to meet their individual needs. “In that way, you are being fair because you still give one piece of fruit to each child. Nevertheless, you are also being equitable because you are giving each child a legitimate way of satisfying their hunger.

“If you had given both children two apples, the child who is allergic to the apple would, on the surface, have a way to satisfy their hunger. However, they will fall ill. That, in a nutshell, is equity,” she said.


Biography of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development professional. In the 30 years of her career, she has worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.  A skilled negotiator, she has brokered numerous agreements which have produced win-win outcomes. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006. She is the first woman to hold both positions.

During her 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, she rose to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. She believes in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty and assist them to achieve economic growth. As Finance Minister, she contributed to the overhaul of Nigeria’s trade policy enabling it to enhance its competitiveness.

She is renowned as the first female and African candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012. In this election, she was backed by Africa and major developing countries in the first truly contestable race for the world’s highest development finance post.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is currently the Chair of the Board of the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (ARC), an innovative weather-based insurance mechanism for African countries; and co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate with Lord Nicholas Stern and Mr Paul Polman.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala is the founder of Nigeria’s first-ever indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja, Nigeria.

On the 1st of March 2021, Dr Okonjo-Iweala took office as the first female Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.


Money lessons you can learn from Okonjo Iweala

Most of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s thoughts and opinions focus on trade especially as it affects Africa and underdeveloped nations. She is also big on equity in the workplace and the future of business especially as it affects young people.

nairaCompare captures a few of the money lessons you can learn from Okonjo-Iweala


1. Do your homework

Addressing the 2016 class of Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Mrs Okonjo-Iweala advised the young graduates to do their homework before embarking on any venture.

“In an imperfect world, good public policies have enemies and friends. It has winners and losers. It can result in tough unforeseen choices. Sometimes you will find that no one will give you a road map, and you will have to invent and improvise as you go along. For that reason, to maximise your chances of success, do your homework beforehand,” she said.


2. Be principled

Still speaking at the Columbia SIPA graduation, the former Rockefeller Foundation board member called on young people to stick to their principles.

“Know what you stand for then find out who wins and make them your allies. Find out who loses and work out a containment strategy. The good news is that the challenges in today’s world are so many, you will not lack jobs or a mandate to change the world,” she added.

3. Aim high

In 2020, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala teamed up with former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard to deliver a Ted Talk on essential lessons for women leaders.

In the words of the WTO Director General, having a sense of purpose translates to aiming high.

“If you have a sense of purpose that drives you, then aim high. Become a leader and make room as you go. In this world, we need to be there for each other. There is no right way to be a woman leader. Be true to yourself,” she said.


4. Opportunities can come out of a crisis

In a ‘Virtual Consultation Series on COVID-19’ which addressed youth unemployment and economic recovery, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala posited that opportunities could come out of a crisis.

She said, “We can choose to look at the crisis differently by asking: What are the opportunities that can come out of the crisis for young people, given that unemployment is a big problem on the continent?

“Some people have invented digital trackers for tracking the pandemic. And there are all sorts of apps and technologies that are being deployed by, say Nigeria CDC, to monitor COVID-19.”


5. The future of trade is digital

According to Dr. Iweala, there is a lot of work to be done in order to strengthen the trading system and be fit for the future of trade.

“I always say the future of trade is digital, the future of trade is green. But we don’t have rules that underpin digital trade, and this is becoming the wave of the future,” she opined.

She further stated that the implications for global trade could be significant if governments start getting into industrial policy.


IWD: Equity and the role of men

As the activities to mark the 2023 IWD kick-off, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, in an interview for the Closing Plenary of the 2022 Skoll World Forum, shared her thoughts on the role of men in achieving equity.

In her view, if women are to make progress, men must also learn to open the way. “Men play a critical role in whether women make progress or not. and I often advise women, if you are seeking mentors, don’t only look to other women, also look to men.

“As of now, they are controlling a lot of the places where women cannot get into. And I want them to hear this message. You need to get out of the way a little bit so that women can have a chance,” she said.

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