Joe Biden and Adewale Adeyemo
Home African CEOs Profiles From Nigerian Village to the White House, Adewale Adeyemo to Help Joe Biden Rebuild US Economy
Profiles - Visionaries - January 20, 2021

From Nigerian Village to the White House, Adewale Adeyemo to Help Joe Biden Rebuild US Economy

Today, January 20, 2021, marks a new dawn for the United States of America as Democrat Joe Biden would be sworn in as the 46th President and Kamala Harris as the first female and black Vice-President.

This is coming four years after a tumultuous Donald Trump administration which ended on Wednesday. 

Since he became the President-elect after a war-like election that disoriented Trump’s camp and magnified his unstable mental processes, Biden has been naming key players he wants on his team. His choices so far suggest that he’d live up to his commitment to assembling a diverse Cabinet that would blur the line of division widened by the Republican tenure.

On November 20, Biden appointed Nigerian-born Adewale Adeyemo also known as ‘Wally’ as the Deputy Treasury Secretary, becoming the first African-American to be appointed to that office. Following the announcement, the news went viral and congratulatory messages poured in for the 39-year-old from Africa and across the globe. 

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris

Although Wally’s latest appointment made him popular, he’s not new to working in the White House. He had served as an economic advisor to former President Barack Obama, and his former colleague confirmed that he was one of the stars of that administration.

The chief economic adviser to Obama, Jason Furman, said Wally “impressed everyone he met with his intelligence, great judgment, and kindness”.

Journey to the White House

Wally’s resolve to be a beacon of hope for Africa and the disadvantaged people worldwide was rooted in a television broadcast he watched on February 11, 1990. His father, a school teacher, woke him from sleep to see how Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, walked out of prison.

“Although the images on my television were of a reality thousands of miles from my home, in California, I could feel the hope Mandela inspired not only in South Africans but also in my father,” Wally recalled.

Long before this event, Wally was just a baby when his parents made a life-changing decision that made his American dream a reality. They had lived in Gbongan, a relatively obscured town in Osun State, Western Nigeria. The Adeyemos knew that the only chance their three children, including Wally, would have at a better life would be to leave the town and Nigeria. So they emigrated to the US.

This singular decision set Wally up for greatness.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

His meteoric rise began in 2001 when he became the president of the student body at the University of Berkeley, California. He was later appointed to head the Financial Consumer Protection Bureau, a new federal agency created because of the financial crisis in 2010.

Navigating his road map to success, Wally joined the Democratic Party early and by the time he turned 23, his genius was already noticeable in the political circle. The presidential campaign of John Kerry had saddled him the responsibility to inspire African-American voters in California, an assignment that further unveiled his potentials.

He also participated in the presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Barack Obama. In 2015, he was appointed advisor to the presidency on international economic issues. During this time, Furman confirmed that Wally worked on the “US engagement through the G20, US economic policy with China, and a range of other international economic issues”. It was reported that Obama relied on Wally for advice on these topics.


As part of his achievement, Wally was instrumental in the negotiation of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, a free trade treaty signed by Obama in 2016 but when Trump assumed power, he abandoned the treaty before it came into force. 

Wally currently serves as the president of the Obama Foundation, the charity organization founded by the former president and his wife, Michelle Obama. The foundation supports humanitarian efforts in Africa and beyond.

Inherited economic mess

According to a US political analyst, Ross Baker, professor of American politics at Rutgers University, the Senate should not have a problem confirming Wally’s appointment. If that happens, he’d be supporting Janet Yellen, former president of the Federal Reserve, who was appointed Secretary of the Treasury.

Wally and Janet are expected to have difficulty resolving the pile of economic issues the Biden administration inherited from its predecessor which was deepened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The US GDP fell by 31% in the second quarter of 2020 following the imposed national lockdown. This pushed the unemployment rate from 4.4% to 11.2% over the same period. The first and most crucial issue the Biden government has to tackle is rebuilding the US economy amid the pandemic.

Speaking during an exchange organised by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) last July, Wally cited the first three issues to prioritise as inequalities, the country’s competitiveness, and future employment opportunities.





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