#BelikeNgozi – Words of wisdom from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala


Following the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and the first African Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, the #BelikeNgozi challenge has taken social media by storm with women from across the globe taking part with their tribute to the Nigerian economist, dressed in Ankara print with matching head ties in a nod to Okonjo-Iweala’s distinctive traditional style, the look completed to perfection with a pair of glasses.

The Nigerian economist and international development expert sit on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC). Following her appointment on 15 February 2021, her term will begin on 1 March 2021.

Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the position of Managing Director, Operations (2007–2011). She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. She was the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister, the first woman to serve in that office twice, and the only finance minister to have served under two different presidents. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.

Okonjo-Iweala has been listed as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015), the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2014), the Top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy, 2011 and 2012), the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World (Forbes, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), the Top 3 Most Powerful Women in Africa (Forbes, 2012), the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Africa (Forbes, 2011), the Top 100 Women in the World (The Guardian, 2011), the Top 150 Women in the World (Newsweek, 2011), the Top 100 most inspiring people in the World Delivering for Girls and Women (Women Deliver, 2011). She was listed among 73 brilliant business influencers in the world by Condé Nast International.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with paying homage to the style of a woman in power; it is also important to heed her wisdom. There are many girls and women who may be posing with an ankara head tie and a pair of spectacles but being like an icon is not about a token photo on a social media feed. It is about learning from their experience and her wisdom, so here are some nuggets of wisdom from Okonjo-Iweala.

On style
I’ve developed my own style. It’s a colourful one. It’s African and it is me.

On leadership
If you have a sense of purpose that drives you, then aim high and become a leader and make the room as you go.

Investing in women and girls
Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream is even smarter economics.

On finding solutions
I believe that when you find problems, you should also find solutions.

On networking
Don’t take a backward step. Don’t shy away from taking up space in the world. Don’t assume you are too junior or that people are too busy. Reach out and network.

On ego
When it comes to doing my job, I keep my ego in my handbag.

On African development
Africans… their tired. They’re tired of being the subject of everybody’s charity and care. We are grateful, but we know that we can take charge of our own destinies if we have the will to reform.

On gender stereotypes
Get anyone you know talking about gender stereotypes. These false assumptions cannot survive being held up to the light of day.

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