Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala finally becomes first woman, African to lead WTO

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Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was recently appointed the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization, making her the first woman and the first African to head the multilateral trade body from March 1, 2021 to August 31, 2025.

“The decision was taken by consensus at a special meeting today of the organization’s General Council,” said an official.

The WTO called a virtual special general council meeting at which member states officially selected the former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran as the global trade body’s new director-general. She will take up her post on March 1 and her term, which is renewable, will run until August 31, 2025.

The near-paralysed institution desperately needs a kick-start — something Okonjo-Iweala immediately addressed after being confirmed in the job. “A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the 66-year-old economist said in a statement. “I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. “Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today.” South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee had been the only other remaining contender for the post but pulled out when it became clear that new US President Joe Biden was swinging firmly behind Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

The organisation has been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule. The process of picking one of eight candidates to succeed him had been expected to wrap up by November, but the administration of former US president Donald Trump blocked the consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala is the former Finance Minister of Nigeria and World Bank economist.

 

 

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