Honorary Degree Citation
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Path-breaking policymaker, development economist, change agent. The British paper The Independent called you “the woman who has the power to change Africa” — and you did. Pragmatic yet passionate, you left your 21-year career promoting democratization and debt reduction as vice president of the World Bank group to transform the economy of your native Nigeria. Time magazine, in naming you a hero of the year in 2004, called you Nigeria’s corruption cop. As Nigeria’s first female minister of finance and economy, you established transparency as the foundation for economic policy. Audits of oil companies increased tax compliance, releasing resources for investments in health and education. Publications about the flow of federal funds to local governments let communities follow the money — and demand accountability from politicians. Chalk and vaccines began to appear where funds for them had formerly disappeared. A report card on your own policies conveyed both government achievements and obstacles to change. Armed with information, the Nigerian people came to “own” economic reform, as you so aptly put it. As a result of your bold and politically courageous efforts, Nigeria moved on Transparency International’s ranking from the most corrupt nation in 2002 to one of the most improved by 2005. Your approach to Nigerians owning their problems and designing their own solutions — combined with tough negotiating and lobbying on your part — paved the way to the cancellation of 60 percent of Nigeria’s Paris Club debt. Pooled with resources from government restructuring, you reduced the value of Nigeria’s external debt from 35 billion to 5 billion dollars, releasing resources for national development. Billions of Nigerians will be healthier and better educated for your bold efforts. It is no surprise that you were named Finance Minister of the Year in 2005 and received the Euromoney Award for Vision and Courage; the program you established has already been adopted as a model for all of Africa. Educated at Harvard with a Ph.D. from MIT, as the mother of four you, with your husband, Dr. Ikemba Iweala, sacrificed for the education of your children. The legacy of your brave efforts will create opportunities for a new generation of Nigerians and other African citizens.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 27, 2007
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a distinguished visiting fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program of the Brookings Institution. A native of Nigeria, she earned her undergraduate degree at Harvard and her Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was vice president and corporate secretary for the World Bank and was the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s finance minister and, later, as its foreign affairs minister. She earned a reputation as an advocate for economic reform and for transparency in the way governments transact economic affairs, and for her efforts she was selected as a Time magazine “Hero of the Year” in 2004 and received the Euromarket Forum Award for Vision and Courage in 2003. At the Brookings Institution her projects focus on economic reform issues in Africa, corruption and governance in social-sector financing, transparency and accountability, and global health-financing issues. She also is co-author of two books: Chinua Achebe: Teacher of Light (2004) and The Debt Trap in Nigeria: Towards a Sustainable Debt Strategy (2002).