Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recipe for success LIVE from Forbes Africa

Uncategorized Mar 09, 2021

Happy International Women’s Day (+1😊)!

Over the past days we have been fully immersed in the 2-day Africa Leading Women Summit which just ended with a BANG.

The line-up of speakers (incl. Coach Africa’s Women Impact’s Summit speaker Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim) was breath-taking and the overall quality of the event (with the exception of a few technical hick-ups) was top-notch.

The crème de la crème of the Summit was the long-anticipated interview by Peace Hyde, West Africa Correspondent of Forbes Africa with the new Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

We were frantically making notes during this session and felt these provided so much wisdom that we really wanted to share this with you all.

Disclaimer: this blog does not aim to be complete and we don't claim to be professional note takers😊. Contact the organizers for the replay.

Here are her words that stood out for us:

  • “I believe that the purpose of the WTO is lifting people’s incomes, creating employment and supporting a sustainable world. Trade is ultimately about people”. How can I make sure the WTO is supportive of what Africa tries to do. How can WTO rules support investment in Africa? How can we leverage the huge achievement of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement?
  • For Africa to benefit, Africa has to add value to products that they produce. For example looking at pharmaceutical products, over 90 percent are imports.
  • It is good to have strong rules, but we also have to work on facilitating investments, to see how can countries can create the right type of investment so that they can build own industries, create employment.
  • "Aid for Trade" can be used to build capacity building in institutions and in government,
  • I am inspired by other women, I want them to do better than me

What is the advice you give to other women?

I would like to encourage women to not just emulate, but to do better. I would like to show the way, but I love sitting back and enjoying seeing other women achieve.

 “What is your recipe for success? How did you manage to become successful? 

  • In my career path, I did not set out to just get any I have defined success differently, as enjoying the job. As commitment or
    • I have a 70/30 recipe. My rule is to WANT to go to work 70% of the time, to WANT to get out of bed, either out of commitment or love for the job. Nobody can expect to be 100% ready to do the work all of the time.
    • Lesson here is pick something you enjoy! When we enjoy the thing, the promotion will come without even realizing, you do your very best, whether you are in private sector, government etc.
  • Give it your all! If you pick something you want to do go at it wholeheartedly and you will find a lot of joy in it.
  • Make sure it is about serving others! Education is not just for yourself. You should consider your privilege to help others, either at public policy or though practical example of projects.
  • There is no cookie cutter answer to your situation.
  • If you want to be successful do things that you enjoy so you can be your best.
  • The issue of inequity, globalization and changes in technology have been great, but they also left some people behind: in rich countries there are poor people that were left behind, which has left to populism. Poor countries have been left behind as well.
  • How do we use the tools of development? Trade is one of these tools. Trade is one of the areas where we have to focus.
  • We should try to bring in marginalized groups and micro, medium and small enterprises and rules of trade that can help them to participate. How can we make rules that are supportive and to get investment in these companies, such as access to credit issues.
  • We should lift up women. When you lift up women in trade, you lift 50% or more in the countries, we can support e-commerce and electronic trade. Let’s relook at what rules can bring them in.

 What must Nigeria do to achieve sustainable growth though trade?

  • A lot of things inside and outside, but
  • It’s not only about Nigeria, but Africa is currently only 2-3 % of Global trade and that has not been increasing, therefore WTO is important as it provides a forum for trade.
  • We must bring rich countries to the multilateral table, we do not need bilateral agreements with rich countries.
  • We should look internally what we produce. To trade more, we have to produce more.
  • Diversification is important, for countries like Nigeria. As we can see, many countries move away from fossil fuels, this will mean lower demand for our oils, we should look at agriculture or services where we can produce and sell both in continent and outside..

"I have tremendous admiration for how African women handle so many issues/roles at the same time, as entrepreneurs, care-takers of the family etc".  

Governments have to look at what are the gaps to support women empowerment today:

  • How do we give them the tools: looking at girls education, getting girls in the school.
  • Supporting women to go further in school or become entrepreneurs
  • Opening the doors to women, not assuming gender stereotypes, give them legal backing, implement laws that are in the books already. There are many laws in the books that are not implemented
  • Above all giving the chances to women in cabinet, in private sector; give access to credit. When there is liquidity crunch you prioritize women’s businesses as families are standing on their shoulders
  • Prioritize women legally, financially, educationally that’s what we need to do.

What are the stereotypes women face and what can women do to become great leaders?

When interviewing women leaders: we found different things:

  • Barriers around appearance: with women it is all about the hair. There is too much focus on what they look like rather than the substance of what they say, even at top leadership this is the case. Men leaders come in suits, no one looks at appearance, however for every women leader there is so much attention, share the fact you are not alone, this is not something that happens to you alone. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said she specifically developed a certain look, so people could focus on what she was trying to say. People focusing on what women look like is a problem.
  • Gender perceptions of what a leader should be like.
    • We often think of male qualities being strong. If a man is ambitious and goal getter, people applaud him for that, however if woman stands up, people say: “look at her she is grabbing for power”. As women leader you want to be strong but not too strong, it’s continuously walking this fine line.
  • Gender stereotypes
    • I have been living the gender stereotypes, in the run-up to the WTO election, some newspapers in Switzerland featured me as a 66y old grandmother taking over the leadership of the WTO. Imagine that if a man has taken over, would we see a headline such as : ”70 year old grandfather takes a major organization, such as for example the World Bank? No! You would never see that? Jokingly: “I am a proud 66 y old grandmother but that is not the issue, the issues are around some of the gender stereotypes. Women should not let this deter them. Men should call these out! As we tend to listen more to men, it is more impactful for them to call this out. When a man calls it out, it makes a difference.

What’s next for you?

  • I first have to try to deliver on this job. I need to focus, I need a lot of prayers. I need faith and religion.
  • How do we turn the WTO around and deliver all these things?
  • How to do more for trade, women and for our continent in Africa?

Peace Hyde: “We are 100% behind you, you will do an amazing job”

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “Thank you to all the women. Young women also inspire me. Do what you love and bring everything to the table”.

We hope you enjoyed this short blog?

Want to hear more stories by African trailblazers?

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