People & Money

The Amazons: Six Female West African Economists 

Covid 19 or not, March is the month that the world celebrates women. The pandemic is projected to nip anything between 2% to 2.7% off global economic growth in 2020. This will lead to a much bigger decline in economic growth (roughly the quantity of investment and jobs created, goods and services produced, salaries or incomes earned etc.) than during the 2008/2009 financial crisis (the global economy declined by only 2% in 2009). This means fewer jobs and incomes for people, less money or purchasing power in the economy. This translates into deepening poverty for the poorest, especially informal workers in countries like Nigeria, out of which about 60% are women. There is no better way to celebrate women in the time of Covid 19 than identifying economists and public policy experts whose work will be very relevant to dealing with the economic fallouts of the pandemic.

Victoria Kwakwa

Victoria Kwakwa is currently Vice President at the World Bank for East Asia and the Pacific, a role she assumed in April 2016 after serving as the Country Director for Vietnam from 2009. In her new position, Ms. Kwakwa oversees a portfolio of more than $32 billion in loans, grants, credits, and trust funds across 23 countries in the region. She had played an important role in the formulation of the high-profile economic reforms of the Obasanjo years as Senior Economist and later Lead Economist at the World Bank Abuja office. Ms. Kwakwa was so passionate an advocate of economic reforms in Nigeria that many Nigerians, even in policy and development circles, still think she is Nigerian. She is a Ghanaian national who joined the World Bank in 1989 through its Young Professional Programme after earning a B.A.  in Economics and Statistics from the University of Ghana, Legon and a PhD in Economics from Queens University in Kingston, Canada where she specialised in International Trade and Finance and Monetary Theory. Her writings include Foreign Capital Flows in Vietnam: Trend, Impact and Policy Implications (1997), Binding Constraints to Growth in Nigeria (2008), Taking Stock: An Update on Vietnam’s Recent Economic Developments (2014) and Maximizing Knowledge for Development (2018).

Belinda Archibong

An Assistant Professor of Economics at Barnard College, Columbia University, USA, Belinda’s research interests straddle development economics, political economy, economic history and environmental economics. Belinda obtained her B.A in Economics/Philosophy, M.A and PhD in Sustainable Development all from Colombia University. She has a Visiting Fellow at the University of Lagos (2018) and the University of Oxford (2019). Belinda has also been a Visiting Fellow at the World Bank Group and has worked on consulting projects for corporate institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. She is affiliated with many academic faculties and professional bodies such as Columbia University’s Center for Development Economics and Policy (CDEP),  Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia UniversityCenter for Environmental Economics and Policy (CEEP), National Economic Association, American Economic Association and the African Finance and Economics Foundation. Her publications include Explaining Divergence in the Long-Term Effects of Precolonial Centralization on Access to Public Infrastructure Services in Nigeria (2019),  Historical Origins Of Persistent Inequality In Nigeria (2018), Disease and Gender Gaps in Human Capital Investment: Evidence from Niger’s 1986 Meningitis Epidemic (2017) and Geography of Infrastructure Functionality at Schools in Nigeria: Evidence From Spatial Data Analysis Across Local Government Areas (2015).

Vera Songwe

Vera Songwe, a Cameroonian economist, is the Executive Secretary of United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) (ranked at the level of Under-Secretary-General in the UN system) a position no woman had held before her. Her research and professional engagement have focused on fiscal policy, innovative financing mechanisms for development, agriculture, energy and economic governance. In 2015, she became Western and Central Africa’s regional director for the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Vera serves as a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative. She is a member of the African Union Institutional reform team under the leadership of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President and a Board Member of the African Leadership Network and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. She worked for the World Bank from 1998 before transferring her services to the International Financial Corporation.   She was a member of the World Bank Group team that raised a historic US$49.3 billion in concessional financing for the low-income countries of the World as part of the International Development Association (IDA) 16th replenishment and also involved in the Africa 2.0 initiative designed to bring African youth together for development of the continent. Forbes in 2013 listed her as one of the “20 Young Power Women in Africa” and the Institut Choiseul for International Politics and Geoeconomics chose her as one of the “African leaders of tomorrow”. Vera got her first degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan. She holds a PhD in Mathematical Economics from the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics and a Master of Arts in Law and Economics and a Diplôme d’études approfondies in Economic Science and Politics from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. Her publications include Exports and Export Diversification in Sub-Saharan Africa (2012), Intra-African trade: A path to economic diversification and inclusion (2019), and A continental strategy for economic diversification through the AfCFTA and intellectual property rights (2020).

Zainab Usman

Zainab Usman obtained a PhD from the University of Oxford in 2017. Her research in Oxford examined the impact of politics on Nigeria’s attempts to diversify its oil-based economy. She joined the World Bank through the Young Professional Programme, working in the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (SURR) team. Zainab read International Relations at the Ahmadu Bello University and obtained a distinction in her M.Sc in International Political Economy and Development at the University of Birmingham. She now works as a Public Sector Specialist at the Office of the Chief Economist, Africa Region. Zainab has consulted for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the International Crisis Group World Economic Forum on Africa, the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Office of the Nigerian National Security Adviser (ONSA). She also worked as a development and governance researcher at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. Her publications include The Successes and Failures of Economic Reform in Nigeria’s Post-Military Political Settlement (2019), Lessons from Power Sector Reforms: The Case of Morocco (2019) and The “Resource Curse” and Constraints to Reforming Nigeria’s Oil Sector (2018). A passionate participant in public discussions of policy and development, Ms. Usman has written for CNN, Aljazeera English, The Washington Post, The Conversation, and international news media.

Halimatou Hima

Halimatou is co-coordinator of the Next Einstein Forum and an Expert Advisor at the United Nations. The Niger-born public policy and development expert is widely known for her “ilimi Africa” initiative which seeks to be a rallying point for Nigerien and African intellectuals and youth to drive education and innovation. She is currently studying for her PhD degree in Development Studies at Cambridge University, where she is a Cambridge-Africa Trust scholar. Her research seeks to understand the “intersection of research and public policy with the aim of contributing to improving the livelihoods of the most impoverished by giving people the means to empower themselves…” She consulted for the Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2013 and the World Bank from 2013 to 2015. Halimatou attended the Lycée Mariama of Niamey, and then later the United World College in New Mexico. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, gained through a Harvard Presidential Scholarship and the HKS International Fellowship. She obtained a Bachelor in African Studies and Economics from Wellesley College where she was an Albright Fellow. With her ilimi initiative, Halimatou has been to over 100 villages in Niger, advancing education, women literacy and empowerment and economic development.

Nafisat Olawunmi

Nafisat studied Economics at the Lead City University, Ibadan, finishing as the best graduating student in 2013. She proceeded to the University of Kent to earn an M.Sc in International Finance and Economic Development. Nafisat is studying for a PhD at the International Business Division, Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds, UK. Her research focuses on Chinese FDI in resource-rich African countries, exploring specifically the capacities of local firms to absorb technology and knowledge from Chinese firms and the role of investment policies in facilitating local firms’ linkages with Chinese and other foreign firms. Nafisat has consulted for Economic Associates, a leading macroeconomic advisory where she contributed to producing an in-depth profile of the Economic, Fiscal, Endowment and Wellbeing of Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT. She was also a member of the sub-committee on Fiscal Sustainability and Alternative Revenue Sources and Macro-Modelling sub-subcommittee on the New Minimum Wage, working closely with the Presidential Technical Advisory Committee on the country’s new minimum wage. Nafisat’s interests straddle international development and public policy. Her publications and papers include What Is New? The Role of Asymmetry and Breaks in Oil Price–Output Growth Volatility Nexus (2018), Monetary Policy and Currency Crisis: Examining the Effects in Nigeria (May 2018), Impact of Democracy on Foreign Direct Investment and Economic Growth in Nigeria (2018), Impact of Foreign Direct Investment on Economic Growth in Nigeria (2018) and Energy Consumption and Economic Growth in Oil Importing and Oil Exporting Countries: A Panel ARDL Approach (2019)

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