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Iwuji-Eme makes history

INSPIRATION: NneNne Iwuji-Eme says she is looking forward to her new role

IN AN exclusive interview with The Voice, NneNne Iwuji-Eme has shared her excitement after being appointed as the British High Commissioner to the Republic of Mozambique taking over from Joanna Kuenssberg.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I got the job,” she said. “I mean, it’s a privilege and an honour to be able to represent a country in any capacity, so being Her Majesty’s Government representative abroad is something I’m very happy and proud of.”

SIGNIFICANT

Iwuji-Eme’s appointment is a significant one, making her the first black British woman diplomat to be appointed as high commissioner, and is looking forward to taking
on the role.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson warmly welcomed her saying she had the “vision, experience and energy” for the appointment. He said: “As the country heads in a new and exciting direction, it’s important that we have the brightest and the best batting for Britain. Our great diversity is an invaluable asset on the global stage, and it’s only right that at all levels [of] the FCO reflects this.

“As a continent with some of the world’s fastest grow- ing economies, Africa is an important partner post-Brexit. NneNne has the vision, experience and energy to take our relationship with Mozambique to the next level, and I congratulate her on her appointment.”

However Iwuji-Eme said: “It’s early days, but I think suffice to say that the priority for any British ambassador going out now is just to make sure we do the job that we have been sent there to do; which is to build deep, broad, mutually beneficial relationships particularly in the context of post-Brexit.

“We are at an exciting time to reshape the relationship we have with the rest of the world in a way that makes sure that we maximise opportunities that benefit both the UK and the country in question.

“So that’s what I’m looking forward to doing and that’s part of what I’ll be focusing on.” Iwuji-Eme spent much of her formative years in Nigeria, where she lived until she was 12 years old.

Her parents started working with the UN, resulting in the family being based in different countries across Africa and Europe, including Ethiopia, Geneva and France, among others. “I guess that kind of up- bringing made it inevitable that I would end up in the foreign services in some capacity,” she told The Voice.

“When they joined the UN, I came back to the UK and I studied economics at the University of Manchester and my postgraduate focus was pretty much on stuff in Africa, economic integration, trade and women.”

Iwuji-Eme joined the Civil Service straight after university and started off in the department for environment. From there, she transferred across to become the economic policy advisor for Africa and her career took off. Fast forward to 2018 and now the working mother is preparing to take on the role of High Commissioner for Mozambique.

She is paving the way for women to follow in her foot- steps and is positioning herself as a successful woman who overcame both gender and racial biases which are often placed on black women. She said: “I was very lucky that my formative years were spent in a country where I was not the minority.

“So my doctors looked like me, my teachers looked like me, the policemen looked like me and so on.”

“By the time I came back to the UK – where I was a ‘minority’ – I already knew an alternative reality where that was the opposite. I didn’t feel like I was a minority, or the only black person in the boardroom. It wasn’t something to be intimidated about because I just knew it was a fact of geography.”

Despite this, Iwuji-Eme still acknowledges the various barriers that women often come across in the journey to female leadership. She added: “I think what my upbringing did was equip me with how to overcome these barriers and face them, but they certainly do exist. Something that really did help me was having really good mentors and coaches.

“For any young woman thinking about her career moving forward, it’s important to have that core group of people who are pretty much your cheerleaders, people who will tell you the truth but who, ultimately, you know have your best interests at heart.” Iwuji-Eme’s expertise and support system are sure to assist in her new position, as Africa’s economic and technological potential is under the spotlight.

“I’ve always been optimistic about Africa’s potential,” she said.
“And it’s not only today people have been saying that – Africans themselves have been very vocal about the fact that the continent has been a place of wealth, talent and opportunities. In the last decade we have doubled foreign direct in- vestments to Africa, from about £20 billion to more than £40 billion.”

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