Vera Songwe resumes as new executive secretary of ECA

Steve Ferguson

The new Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, has officially resumed office. Ms. Songwe was appointed earlier this year by United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, and takes over from former Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes.

Abdalla Hamdok has been acting as Executive Secretary since Mr. Lopes departed the ECA.

The Cameroonian economist and banking executive is the first woman to ever serve in this role. She has been working as the International Finance Corporation’s regional director for Africa covering West and Central Africa since 2015. Ms. Songwe was also a non-resident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institute: Global Development and Africa Growth Initiative (since 2011).

She brings to the position a longstanding track record of policy advice and results-oriented implementation in the region, coupled with a strong strategic vision for the region.

Ms. Vera Songwe was previously Country Director for Senegal, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania at the World Bank (2012-2015), Adviser to the Managing Director of the World Bank for Africa, Europe and Central Asia and South Asia Regions (2008-2011) and Lead Country Sector Coordinator (2005-2008).

Forbes listed her in 2013 as one of the “20 Young Power Women in Africa”, and the following year the Institut Choiseul for International Politics and Geoeconomics chose her as one of their “African leaders of tomorrow”.

Vera Songwe grew up in Bamenda, in the northwest of Cameroon, where she attended Our Ladies of Lourdes College, a private Catholic school, and thus formed part of the local English-speaking elite. After obtaining her B.A. in economics and a B.A. in political science from the University of Michigan, she obtained her PhD in mathematical economics at the Université catholique de Louvain, in Belgium. She later migrated to the United States, where she worked at the University of Michigan for three years.