Denise Okpala (nee Onwumere) is the Office Manager for Financial Reporting and Grants at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission. Her role involves working with project managers and accountants to process financing and grant allocations for various projects, such as The West African Biodiversity and Climate Change Project, the Marine Environmental Security in Africa Project and the West African Ecomarine Project. This requires her to liaise with several international partners and donors to ensure that the right projects are financed sufficiently. Denise notes that the best part of her work is meeting new people and satisfying their enquiries concerning financing their projects and approvals, whilst the most challenging aspect is keeping charts and figures organised for report preparation.
In 2014, she was part of the team in the Environment Directorate that worked with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) developing climate change mitigation and adaptation policies in West African states. The team also worked extensively with key stakeholders and leaders to carry out development and capacity building projects in the subregion.
Denise holds a BSc in Marine Biology from the University of Lagos and a master’s degree in Environmental Planning and Management from John Hopkins University. She completed a three-month undergraduate internship with the Nigerian Institute of Oceanographic and Marine Research, and following graduation worked with the Federal Ministry of Environment as a Junior Environmental Scientist for a year. She then worked with Telecom Technologies International as a Systems Analyst for GIS projects. In 2011, Denise began working for the ECOWAS Commission as an Assistant in the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate. After six years in this role, she was redeployed to work on the ECOWAS Institutional Reform Project for a further two years. Following this, she worked as a Program Assistant in the Cross Border Cooperation Division for a year, and in January 2020 was promoted to Office Manager and worked in Legal Affairs from January to July and Financial Reporting and Grants from July onwards.
In the future, Denise would like to be a Director of environmental, biodiversity or marine resource management for an international organisation and to play a major role in decision-making processes when it comes to wildlife protection, environmental management and sustainable development.
Denise joined the IES as a Full Member in 2016 to learn from fellow environmental professionals and to stay up to date with environmental trends, news and innovation.