BREAKING: Nigerian Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala makes history, confirmed as WTO DG
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed earlier as director-general of the World Trade Organization today Monday 15th, 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to lead the global trade body.
Okonjo-Iweala was appointed by the WTO after the last remaining rival candidate, South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, withdrew from the race. She will take up her post on March 1, initially for a term that runs until August 2025.
An economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala enjoyed broad support from WTO members including the European Union, China, Japan and Australia.
As director-general, a position that wields limited formal power, Okonjo-Iweala, 66, will need to broker international trade talks in the face of persistent U.S.-China conflict; respond to pressure to reform trade rules; and counter protectionism heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her acceptance speech at the WTO, she said that getting a trade deal at the next major ministerial meeting would be a “top priority” and also urged members to reject vaccine nationalism, according to a delegate attending the closed-door meeting.
In the same speech, she described the challenges facing the body as “numerous and tricky but not insurmountable”.
A 25-year veteran of the World Bank, where she oversaw an $81 billion portfolio, Okonjo-Iweala ran against seven other candidates by espousing a belief in trade’s ability to lift people out of poverty.