Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Officially Appointed DG of World Trade Organisation

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Officially Appointed DG of World Trade Organisation

Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has now made history as the first woman and first African to emerge as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
 Okonjo-Iweala, 66, an ex-finance minister of Nigeria will formally assume office on March 1, 2021 as the head of the powerful international multilateral trade organisation.. She succeeds Brazilian Roberto Azevedo who suddenly and surprisingly stepped down from the position in August of 2020.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala thus becomes the first woman and the first African to occupy the office. The WTO announced in a landmark tweet on Monday February 15 as follows:

“Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria is appointed as the next WTO Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala makes history as the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021.” The 164-member WTO took the decision at a special meeting of the General Council, following a selection process that included eight candidates from around the world.

Okonjo-Iweala’s pathway to the WTO throne was cleared in the first week of February 2021 after her only opponent in the race withdrew; and after the Joe Biden-led United States federal government endorsed her candidacy.

The Donald Trump presidency had blocked her appointment and rained on her parade, hence the delay in her appointment.

“This is a very significant moment for the WTO. On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO’s next Director-General and formally welcome her to this General Council meeting,” said General Council Chair David Walkerof New Zealand who, together with co-facilitators Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month DG selection process.

“Dr Ngozi, on behalf of all members I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and for 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,” General Council Chair David Walker added.

Okonjo-Iweala says 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.

She said in response to her appointment, “I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” she said. “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 a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today.”

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