World Trade Organization Appoints Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as New DG

NIGERIA’S former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has made another history, after being appointed as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman to ever lead the Switzerland-based institution and the first African citizen to take on the role.

Okonjo-Iweala graduated from Harvard University in 1976 and then earned a PhD from MIT. She then became the first woman to take on the Nigerian finance ministry and the foreign ministry too. She was also the first female to run for the World Bank presidency, where she spent 25 years.

In October, her WTO candidacy was supported by all geographic regions at the trade body apart from the United States, where the then-Trump administration said it would continue backing the Korean candidate. However, Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment was cleared when President Joe Biden announced a few days ago his support for the 66-year old.

The WTO is at a crossroads after many countries seemed to take a step back from long-standing norms governing international trade. In addition, its appellate body has been paralyzed for months after the U.S. — again, under the Trump administration — prevented the appointment of new judges therefore rendering it unable to rule on any trade disputes.

“My vision is also of a rejuvenated and strengthened WTO that will be confident to tackle effectively ongoing issues,” Okonjo-Iweala told WTO members during a hearing in July.

Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure begins March 1.

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