Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala becomes the first African woman ever to be at the helm of the World Trade Organisation in it’s entire 25-year history
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has appointed former Nigeria’s finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new director-general. Ngozi now becomes the first woman and also African to lead the Switzerland-based institution.
Her appointment came after the WTO had a special general council meeting on Monday.
In September of last year, Kenyan Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister, Amina Chawahir Mohamed, and Okonjo-Iweala were selected as the top candidates for the director-general position for the WTO. They were the only two African women in the running at the time. Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy, however, had been blocked by the former Trump administration, according to The New York Times.
According to a press statement by the office of the US trade representative, “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy. She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organisation with a diverse membership.” European Central Bank President, Christine Lagarde, also responded to Okonjo-Iweala’s historic appointment in a recent interview saying, “[Okonjo-Iweala] is this wonderful, soft, very gentle woman with an authentic approach to problems but, boy, under that soft glove there is a hard hand and a strong will behind it.
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as her country’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank.
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Okonjo-Iweala, who also serves on Twitter’s board of directors, as chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance and as a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 fight, saw her candidacy get a boost when the EU threw its weight behind her.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China.
The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organization altogether.
Okonjo-Iweala said earlier this month that she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.