Conflict resolution alumna Ngozi Ifeoma “Ify” Malo ‘05 returned to her alma mater at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies this month to share examples of how she uses lessons from her graduate school training in her role as the senior policy advisor on energy policies and partnerships to the minister of power in Nigeria.
As background to her story, Malo offered an overview of the energy sector in the emerging economy of her homeland. In a nation of 170 million people, 40% of the country is without electricity while those “on the grid” typically have only 8 hours of electric power per day and must rely on rechargeable lamps and candles when the power is off. Nigeria is also challenged by aging power plants and a newly privatized electricity sector which has dismissed much of the industry’s legacy staff, and has consequently lost much of their accompanying institutional memory with their layoffs.
Malo went on to describe the changes she has seen since taking the job and explained how her job duties have changed over time.
“In the beginning, I was often the only woman at the table,” Malo said. She recalled when initial meetings included just a handful of aides and the minister. Today, as a senior policy advisor, she meets with policymakers across sectors of the energy spectrum to drive and shape the new and emerging energy architecture for Nigeria and interfaces with investors to assure them that Nigeria’s policies in the electricity space is on the right track. Along with her colleagues, she work closely together to prepare the Minister’s presentations and speeches to various target audience and groups both locally and internationally.
She told the audience of students, faculty, and staff that she uses her dispute resolution skills on a daily basis as her sector is “always under lots of pressure and heat.” She finds herself negotiating with colleagues, with the ministry staff and policymakers, and with investors and notes that building consensus is “pivotal to what I do.” Given Obama’s Power Africa initiative to double the access to power in sub-Sahara Africa, Malo strives to find “a common voice” as she works with diplomats and policymakers from seven African countries trying to agree on a framework for investment into the Nigerian electricity sector.
She answered questions on issues of privatization and corruption, the science and policy interface, and public/private partnerships. She explained that it will be another 20 to 50 years before Nigeria is fully electrified and its manufacturing sector can grow. She encouraged faculty research projects and student internships or dissertation research in the Nigerian electricity sector and says she is willing to use her office to facilitate collaborations in this respect.
In concluding her brown bag seminar, Malo reflected on her U.S. education, which also included MBA and LM (Law Masters) degrees. She praises the program for heaping her to develop “the critical thinking skills to ask questions, challenges ideas, and allow for her ideas to be challenged ” in her career since moving back to Nigeria to take on this public service role.
She encouraged graduate students studying conflict resolution, international relations, and global governance to consider careers at the State Department and USAID, as well as international positions in the areas of power, health care, and information and communication technology.
Dean Ira A. Jackson is proud of this alumna as he notes, “Nigeria is the fifth largest oil producer in the world. It is a huge and hugely important country that is wracked with problems—from corruption to religious conflict and terrorism to rampant unemployment and environmental degradation. Ify is in a key spot in one of the most significant positions in the nation. Wow, what a vantage point on history—and what an incredible place from which to put her McCormack learning to work.”