World Trade Organisation Appoints Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General.

"It feels exciting and it feels daunting at the same time. I look forward to the challenge…deep reforms are needed to rebrand and reposition the organization," these were the words of Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a recent interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Yesterday, Feb 15 2021, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made history as she became the first female and the first African ever to become the Director general of the WTO.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s name is not new to many in the sector of global finance. A recognised woman in her home country of Nigeria and globally, Dr Ngozi needs no introduction. Sometimes referred to as her initials NOI, she served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In both roles, she was the first female to hold the positions. 

Prior to serving her country, she worked as Managing Director of the World Bank where she was responsible for the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia. She also oversaw several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the food crisis and later, the financial crisis.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s achievements as Finance Minister gained her international recognition for improving Nigeria’s financial stability and fostering greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption, having led the Nigerian team that negotiated the cancellation of 60% of Nigeria’s external debt ($18 billion) with the Paris Club in October 2005. She spearheaded Nigeria’s first Sovereign credit rating of BB—from Fitch and Standard and Poor’s—a rating that grouped Nigeria with other emerging market countries such as Vietnam, Venezuela and the Philippines.

There is no doubt of the fact that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a successful woman, driven by the desire for great achievements. How does she do it? one might ask. The answer is simple- equipped with the right skills, NOI is interested in finding solutions. This is evident in her track records. She makes the change, she creates the trend and makes things happen.

The journey to becoming the WTO Director-General wasn’t an easy one. Okonjo-Iweala had to contend with seven other distinguished candidates who were put forward by their respective governments. The candidate list was then narrowed from eight to five and eventually to two equally distinguished contenders; South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, and Nigerian Economist and former Finance Minister; Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

On 15 February 2021, the General Council agreed by consensus to select Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the organisation's seventh Director-General and the first female as well as first African to head the WTO.

Her appointment has been greatly applauded within the African continent and also globally. For many Africans, it is believed that this appointment will ensure that the interests of African nations are better mirrored within the WTO.

In a Jan. 29, 2021 interview with TIME magazine, Okonjo-Iweala’s says that global trade can help ease the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle climate change and restore faith in the system of cooperation that has faltered in recent years and the WTO has a central role to play as facilitator.

She will take up her post on March 1st 2021

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