Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been named Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2020.
Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s first female minister of finance and the prime candidate for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, joins a list of eminent Africans to have received the award.
In 2019, Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), won the award for his outstanding work at the bank and a sterling career in agriculture and finance.
Other eminent Nigerians to have bagged the award are Muhammad Sanusi II (2011), former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; Aliko Dangote (2014), president of the Dangote Group.
Sanusi won the first edition of the award in 2011, Adesina has won the award twice — 2013 and 2019, while Okonjo-Iweala is also the first Nigerian woman to clinch the award.
Reacting to the news, Okonjo-Iweala, expressed her delight at the recognition and dedicated the award to Africans facing the health and socio-economic challenges of COVID-19 during a very difficult year.
“It is a great honour to serve Africa in different capacities. I look forward to deploying my energies at the WTO for Africa and the world,” she said.
The award is coming weeks after David Walker, the chair of the general council of the WTO and Facilitators of the process for the appointment of the DG formally submitted her name as the best candidate to be DG.
Okonjo-Iweala emerged the overwhelming choice of WTO member-countries following a keenly contested race in which she got the majority support of the 164 member countries.
The Forbes Africa-CNBC award is the latest honour clinched by the multi-award-winning development economist, one of the African Union (AU) Special Envoys appointed to mobilize international support for Africa’s efforts to address the COVID-19 economic fallout.
She is also the World Health Organisation (WHO) special envoy for the newly inaugurated Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator and its offshoot the COVAX facility, an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development, production, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests kits around the world with the specific objective of ensuring timely, affordable and equitable access to poor countries.
Okonjo-Iweala also serves as the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private global health partnership that has immunised 760 million children in developing countries and saved 13 million lives.