In spite of the universal plea for gender equality and the regular policy conversations around it, progress in terms of diversity on corporate boards seems particularly slow and laced with tokenism. This is particularly so in Africa where only 12% of corporate board positions are filled by women, despite women comprising a large proportion of the population. This percentage shown by a survey carried out by the African Development Bank is a far cry from gender equality.
While there are different discussions on what might have engendered this disproportionate representation of women on boards. This article seeks to celebrate and laud an African female Icon who has consistently sat on boards of local, and international organizations and has become a role model for women who aspire to sit on corporate boards.
For many people, Dr Ngozi Okonja Iweala might not need an introduction. With a history of firsts, she is a two-time minister of finance and has also served as minister of foreign affairs and was the first female in Nigeria to hold both positions.
She is a sterling example of African women on boards as she has occupied several board positions and still does.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi has a well-earned reputation as one of the leading players in global health, providing services that underpin human and economic development.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is co-Chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, with Nicholas Stern and Paul Polman. Previously, she served as the co-Chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
Dr Iweala is also on the board of Twitter, Incorporated.
In the past, Okonjo-Iweala was also a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015-2016), chaired by Gordon Brown. The Commission on the New Climate Economy (also co-Chaired by Paul Polman and Lord Nicholas Stern); the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Foundation; the United Nations’ Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012-2013); and the renowned Growth Commission (2006-2009), led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence.
In June 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country’s candidate to be director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
We are proud of our own Dr Ngozi Okoji-Iweala and look hopefully to a future where more African women will make greater strides in getting their voices heard. Where governments and businesses within the region, and around the world will recognize the benefits of having women in their executive teams and their boardrooms, given Africa’s swelling population and growing international influence, the effects of such a shift will be profoundly positive.
For now, we say Salute to Dr Ngozi Okonji Iweala.
By Kembet Bolton