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Okonjo-Iweala Joins U.S Investment Bank –GAVI Also

Former Coordinating minister of the Economy and Finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed as senior advisor to Lazard, a leading investment bank in the United States of America (USA). She has also been appointed to the chair of the 28-member Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).

A statement on the bank website said “Lazard is the world’s leading independent financial advisory and asset management firm. We serve clients with thoughtful advice and effective solutions to strategic and financial matters”.

The former Managing Director of the World Bank will focus on sovereign advisor in her new role says a statement signed by her media assistant, Paul Nwabuikwu. A statement on the website of the ban reads: “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has built a remarkable international reputation over more than three decades in leadership positions in government and at the World Bank,” said Kenneth M. Jacobs, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lazard. “She will be a strong addition as a Senior Advisor to our firm.”

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as a Senior Advisor to our world-leading sovereign advisory group,” said Matthieu Pigasse, Global Head of M&A and Sovereign Advisory of Lazard. “She will bring a unique international expertise and experience that will benefit both our sovereign and corporate clients.” “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Honourable Minister of Finance for the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 2011 until May 2015. Prior to that, she served as a Managing Director at the World Bank Group for four years.

Dr. Okonjo- Iweala held several ministerial positions, notably as Minister of Finance for Nigeria from 2003 to 2006, during which she led the country’s successful debt relief negotiations.

She started her career at the World Bank in 1982”. At Lazard, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will work alongside colleagues including former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating; former Special adviser to President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan; former Spanish Economy Minister and current Snr Managing Director at Lazard, Rodrigo de Rato; former chair of NASDAQ, Frank Zarb; former Finance Minister of Chile, Andres Velasco; and former British Minister of Parliament/ Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell.

GAVI, an international public-private partnership committed to saving the lives of children and protecting people’s health by improving access to immunization in developing countries, including Nigeria, also announced the appointment of the former finance minister as Chair of its board.

A statement from GAVI said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was elected to the position after a competitive international search process. GAVI is a $12 billion multilateral partnership which disburses grants of upwards of $1.8 billion annually to developing countries for immunization programmes. GAVI brings together developing countries and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.

GAVI is funded by governments of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States as well as the European Commission, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and other institutional and corporate partners.

It will be recalled that, from 2000- 2015, GAVI disbursed $425m in grants to Nigeria, an average of about $30m per annum for vaccination and immunization of children, including polio vaccines.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala succeeds Dagfinn Høybråten, a former Norwegian Minister of Health and current Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers as Chair of GAVI. Previous Chairs include Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and respected education activist and former First Lady of South Africa, Graca Machel.

Reacting to the appointments, Dr Okonjo-Iweala who will be working out of Paris, Geneva and London said, “I am excited to be embarking on this fresh journey. The two appointments will enable me to continue doing what I know best – rendering public service and using my financial and economist skills. I thank the international community for the recognition and continued support. I am also grateful for the prayers and support of many Nigerians”.

-Blessing Nwafor

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