Ujunwa Ojemeni

A future policy leader is learning the tools needed to improve energy policy in Nigeria.

In addition to building expertise in policy formulation and analysis, the Master of Public Policy is structured to ensure that students develop the soft skills required to make impactful change in policy. For Ujunwa Ojemeni (MPP 2021), the first few weeks of classes have pushed her to think logically through the policy questions raised by the faculty and her classmates, to communicate coherently her ideas, to negotiate with her classmates and to manage her time well to get the most out of her year at Oxford. 

Ujunwa was selected as one of five future public sector leaders awarded the AIG Scholarship for their outstanding academic credentials and commitment to continuing to serve the public in Nigeria. For Ujunwa, the soft skills she develops at the School will be essential as she juggles the MPP’s intense workload, getting involved in extra-curricular activities outside of the School, and taking care of her two children who are attending school in Oxford while she completes the MPP. These skills will also undoubtedly add value when she returns to Nigeria to work on achieving universal access to energy. 

Universal energy access

As an energy sector professional, Ujunwa began her career in development finance and impact investing, realising early on the importance of universal access to energy and its potential to impact upon other key areas of development, such as reducing poverty. She also learned that the issues of gender and access to energy were intrinsically linked. 

“Throughout my journey I noticed that the number of women in the energy sector was just not proportionate to men, and that women are more likely to suffer from lack of access to energy – this pushed my desire to help women into decision-making positions across the energy value chain.” 

Consequently, Ujunwa founded the Africa Women in Energy Development Initiative (AWEDI) to connect women across the energy sector in Africa. The organisation offers women energy professionals mentorship, leadership training, and professional development and networking opportunities. She believes that putting women at the centre of energy policy and the energy transition will lead to just long-term change. 

Using public policy to make a difference

Following her experience in the private sector, she spent two years working in the public sector in an advisory role on access to energy at the sub-national level in Lagos State. It was during this experience that she began to consider that studying public policy might be the next logical step in her career in energy. 

“I had been working specifically in the energy sector for over seven years, and two out of these years in the public sector. In the public sector, I was working on the things that matter without all of the tools I felt I needed.” 

Why the Oxford MPP?

For Ujunwa, the MPP at the Blavatnik School of Government was a standout. The rich diversity of the class, the interdisciplinary nature of the course content and the opportunity to get involved in the full colour of Oxford life pushed her to apply. In addition to the MPP application, however, she had to think about how she would fund her studies in the UK. 

Ujunwa found out about the AIG Scholarship through social media, and instantly felt it was a good fit. She could demonstrate her leadership in access to energy within the public and private sectors, as well as her commitment to supporting women in the industry through AWEDI. In addition, she highlighted her commitment to utilising the knowledge and skills she would gain at the School to contribute to the Nigerian public sector. 

The application process, while challenging, encouraged her to reflect upon the skills she could bring to the MPP. It also prompted her to consider what tools she would need to add to her belt to become the most effective policy professional she could. When she was awarded the scholarship, she felt an enormous sense of determination knowing that the work she was dedicating her career to was valuable. 

“For me, being selected gave me confidence that the work I am doing is important, but I am very much aware that it comes with responsibilities and expectations. You need to be dedicated and you need to be committed.”

Life at the Blavatnik School of Government

Since arriving, Ujunwa has been impressed by the sense of community at Oxford – not just at the Blavatnik School, but also in her college (Green Templeton College) where she was elected as one of the Environmental Representatives and the wider University – and by the sheer number of activities for her to get involved with outside of the MPP course. A particular highlight has been hearing from one of the School’s alumni, Soledad Nuñez (MPP 2018), who came to share her experiences of working on the fight against corruption in Paraguay after the MPP. 

“To be successful in policy you have to understand who are your allies and detractors. I also learnt the importance of relational power and influence as this has to be used to complement one’s positional power and personal power in any leadership position.”

When Ujunwa returns to Nigeria after the MPP, she faces the interwoven challenges of working towards a just energy transition, securing the appropriate financing required to achieve this whilst ensuring that women are at the nexus of this process. However, she will be returning with not only the policy expertise required to achieve this. Her ability to prioritise, negotiate, and communicate this vision to different stakeholders within the policymaking process will undoubtedly flourish during her year at the School, ensuring she can also deliver and implement the relevant policies in her home country.