Ford Foundation appoints Catherine Chinedum Aniagolu-Okoye as regional director for West Africa
LAGOS, NIGERIA - October 7, 2021 - The Ford Foundation announced today the appointment of Catherine Chinedum (‘ChiChi’) Aniagolu-Okoye as its new regional director for its office serving West Africa. Aniagolu-Okoye began the Lagos-based role in September.
Aniagolu-Okoye succeeds the late Innocent Chukwuma who served as regional director from 2013 to 2021 and helped the foundation to build its brand in the region and to establish solid partnerships with donors, civil society, public and private sector leaders.
With over 20 years in the social change sector, Aniagolu-Okoye is a respected leader on the African continent and brings many years of extensive experience leading diverse international development organizations, managing country programs, donor projects and country strategies in West Africa and across Africa.
As regional director, she will oversee the foundation’s local team, external relations and administrative operations in West Africa. She will also lead on program strategy development and implementation in the region, with a focus on advancing democracy, human rights and social inclusion for all especially youth, women and people with disabilities.
“I am delighted to welcome ChiChi to the foundation. Her international experience and leadership, and her expertise in navigating civil society circles will be invaluable as our work in West Africa grows,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “ChiChi’s reputation as a strong operational leader and an African feminist will bring a critical perspective to our work to help address some of the region’s most pressing opportunities and challenges.”
Throughout her career, Aniagolu-Okoye has designed and implemented strategies at regional and global organizations on key social issues such as improving governance, reducing poverty, advancing transparency in the extractives sector, and furthering women and girls’ empowerment—all through engaging civil society as well as the public and private sectors.
Before Ford, Aniagolu-Okoye was most recently the country director of Technoserve, an international NGO that provides business solutions to poverty with women at the heart of the work. Prior, she was the country director for WaterAid in Nigeria where she provided grants to civil society organizations advocating for improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services and strengthening civil society networks, including one focused on journalists dedicated to telling more accurate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) stories. Before WaterAid, ChiChi led Girl Effect, an initiative of the Nike Foundation focused on girls’ empowerment, and also served as country director for Oxfam/Nigeria. At Oxfam, she led strategies on reducing inequalities through initiatives on tax and gender justice, including the VOICE program that addressed gender-based violence and transparency in the extractives sector. Earlier in her career Aniagolu-Okoye was deputy program director of a European Union project focused on reforming public sector service delivery with more efficient management of public finances, budget reform and accountability in six Nigerian states. Prior to that, she was the West Africa director for ASHOKA Innovators for the Public, focusing on advancing social entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.
“I am very excited to be joining a team and a foundation so passionately focused on building a world where everyone has the power to shape their own lives and live with dignity,” says Aniagolu-Okoye. “The Ford Foundation successfully promotes social justice and reducing inequality in West Africa—a vision I am fully aligned with and honored to help shepherd and grow in the regional office.”
She will be taking over for Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima who served as interim regional director since January while continuing his primary role as program officer leading the foundation’s intersectional work in the West Africa region.
Aniagolu-Okoye holds a Ph.D in sociology specializing in gender and development from University College Cork in Ireland, and a B.Sc in sociology and anthropology from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. She is a founder of the South Saharan Social Development Organization, a member of the Advisory Board of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and an Africa Policy Advisory board member of The One Campaign.