Cared for by her grandmother in a village in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is emphatic that her experiences as a child are what led her into a career in public service and development.
“I lived some of the issues that people are concerned about in development,” she explains in the video below, part of a new CGD podcast.
Given the opportunity to study in the US, she was encouraged to return home every year. "Privilege... must be used for something larger than you," she says.
These days, Okonjo-Iweala is widely known as a leading figure in development. She served as Finance Minister of Nigeria from 2011 to 2015, and as Foreign Affairs Minister before that – the first woman to hold either of those positions.
As Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala oversaw a plan to reduce Nigeria’s debt burden by $30 billion, helping to boost Nigeria's economy. That plan included contributions from CGD. Today, Okonjo-Iweala is a CGD board member and distinguished visiting fellow, and her recent essay, “Six Questions African Policymakers Must Answer Now,” has been garnering attention around the world.
This week she joins me on the CGD Podcast to discuss those questions, which include: How will African policymakers finance the global goals? How can African countries diversify their economies?
“If you truly want to diversify, you need a plan,” Okonjo-Iweala tells me in the following clip. “In a democracy… you need a social compact where the population agrees that no matter who takes over the government, they’re going to continue developing certain things in certain ways.”
"That’s not happening in many of our countries," she says.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.