A new regional director, in the person of Catherine Chinedum (‘ChiChi’) Aniagolu-Okoye, has been appointed to take charge of the West African office of Ford Foundation based in Lagos State.
Before the appointment of Aniagolu-Okoye, the position was served by the late Innocent Chukwuma from 2013 to 2021. During his tenure, he helped Ford Foundation build its brand in West Africa, establishing solid partnerships with donors, civil society, public and private sector leaders.
Asides from being a respected leader on the African continent, Aniagolu-Okoye has over 20 years of experience in the social change sector. She has served in diverse international development organisations, managing country programmes, donor projects and country strategies in West Africa and across Africa.
In her new position as the regional director, she will oversee the foundation’s local team, external relations and administrative operations in West Africa. She will also lead on programme 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.
Speaking on the appointment, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation said:
“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.”
“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.”
Included in Aniagolu-Okoye’s achievements are designed and implemented strategies which she has carried out at regional and global organisations on key social issues such as improvement of governance, reduction of poverty, advancement of transparency in the extractives sector, and enhancement of women and girls’ empowerment. All these have been done through civil society engagements and the public and private sectors.
Aniagolu-Okoye was the country director of Technoserve, an international NGO that takes a business approach to fight poverty by empowering smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs to build brighter futures.
She was also 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.
Girl Effect was an initiative of the Nike Foundation focused on girls’ empowerment led by Aniagolu-Okoye who also served as country director for Oxfam, Nigeria where she led strategies on reducing inequalities through initiatives on tax and gender justice. These included the VOICE programme which addressed gender-based violence and transparency in the extractives sector.
Earlier in her career Aniagolu-Okoye was deputy programme 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. Before 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.
Expressing her excitement, Aniagolu-Okoye said she was glad 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.
“The Ford Foundation successfully promotes social justice and reducing inequality in West Africa—a vision I am fully aligned with and honoured to help shepherd and grow in the regional office,” she said.
In academic achievements, she holds a PhD in sociology specialising 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 Organisation, a member of the Advisory Board of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and an Africa Policy Advisory board member of The One Campaign.
Aniagolu-Okoye will be taking over for Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima who served as an interim regional director since January while continuing his primary role as programme officer leading the foundation’s intersectional work in the West Africa region