As part of our Rethinking Development seminar series, the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies (DUCIGS) welcomed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the University on Thursday February 15. The first woman finance minister of Nigeria and the former managing director of the World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala spent the day meeting with University leaders, students, and faculty. In the evening, her visit concluded with a public talk focused on development in Africa. 

She was welcomed by Duke President Vincent Price when she arrived on campus. The pair discussed Duke’s engagement with Africa. 

After a meeting with faculty from the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Duke Africa Initiative, and the Duke Global Health Institute, she joined an energetic group of students for a special lunchtime discussion. Two Master of International Development (MIDP) fellows from Nigeria, Ada Umenwaliri and Bimpe Femi-Oyewo, helped lead the chat with other students- most from African countries. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has spent much of her career focused on ensuring that young people are engaged and able to reap the benefits of economic growth, so meeting with students at Duke was a highlight of her day. 

Ipchita Bharali (MIDP ’16) and Gavin Yamey of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) hosted her final meeting of the day. As the board chair for the Gavi Alliance, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was keen to discuss their work and the intersections of finance, development, and health. Yamey, who directs CPIGH said, “Ngozi is a true giant in global health, an inspirational leader that many of us look up to.  I was delighted to brief her on the work of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health. Our work has a lot of relevance to Gavi’s mission, since we are exploring topics such as the financing of global public goods for health and reaching the poor in middle-income countries that have transitioned from development assistance for health.”  

Attendees for the public event that evening came from all across campus and the Triangle, including guests from UNC and regional African community groups. Her talk, “Sustaining Africa’s Rise,” centered on a key theme: Africa has unlimited potential as a global leader, and we must invest in the success of its future by looking at sustainable energy, strong and maintained infrastructure, gender and age-inclusive economic development, and education. Her perspective from both government and nongovernmental positions enabled her to reflect on the nuanced challenges facing the continent, but also hope and progress.

She opened her talk by acknowledging that Duke is “in the business of answering the most pressing, difficult questions.” At the end, she reflected on her day meeting with students and faculty working on development and global health. “I know there’s energy here,” she said, “I am at the right place at the right time.”

Dr. Michael Merson, vice president and vice provost for global affairs, introduced her talk and moderated the discussion. In his closing remarks, he mirrored the admiration of the crowd: “You are a great inspiration to old and young students. All have been inspired by your bravery and commitment to the African continent.”


RELATED: See photos from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s visit to Duke


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