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Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Appointed As Next WTO DG

She will be resuming as the first Woman and first African to lead the WTO in 73 years.

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Justina Asishana
Justina Asishana
Justina Asishana is a Nigerian from Edo state. She is a data and investigative journalist who also fact-checks. She covers health, agriculture, education and governance

NIGERIA: The World Trade Organization (WTO) has appointed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria as its next Director-General.

Okonjo-Iweala will be resuming as the first Woman and first African to lead the WTO in 73 years.

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Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021 and will expire on 31 August 2025 but her term is renewable.

How she was selected

The members of the WTO decided to appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at a special meeting of the General Council on Monday.

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The meeting is following a selection process that included eight candidates from around the world.

The General Council decision comes after follows of uncertainty which arose when the United States initially refused to join the consensus around Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

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On the 5th of February, the Trade Minister of the Republic of Korea, Yoo Myung-hee withdrew her candidacy while the US who backed her dropped the US objection and extended its support for the candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

The General Council Chair, David Walker of New Zealand welcome Dr Okonjo-Iweala to the meeting while extending the organization’s congratulations to her.

He said, “Dr Ngozi, on behalf of all members, I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and your patience. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr Ngozi, and I am certain that all members will work with you constructively during your tenure as Director-General to shape the future of this organization.”

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It won’t be Business As Usual – Okonjo-Iweala

In a Press Conference, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said that it would no longer be business as usual adding that she is set to tackle the challenges of WTO.


She said that it was an honour to be the first woman and first African to lead the WTO adding that being a woman means more work and the quest to deliver results.

“Thank you WTO members for finalizing my election today and making history. In the 73 years of GATT and WTO, honoured to be First Woman and First African to lead. But now the real work begins. I am ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual!”

Okonjo-Iweala said a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. 

“Our organization faces many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today”, she stated.

She appreciates all African Heads of State, the African Union Commission Chair, the ECOWAS Heads of State for their outstanding support.

She further expressed her gratitude for the expression of support from the US while appreciating her closest contender, Yoo Myung-hee for a hard-fought campaign.

Okonjo-Iweala also appreciated Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari and all Nigerians for their unflinching support.

The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered on 14 May when former the Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevêdo informed WTO members he would be stepping down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on 31 August.

Who is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala?

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born on 13 June 1954. She is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert. 

She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered BankTwitterGlobal Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations from 2007 to 2011. 

She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria from 2003 to2006 and from 2011 to 2015 under the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan.

She is a woman who always makes history as she was the first woman to serve as Nigeria’s finance minister and the first woman to serve in the office twice.

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