Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been confirmed as the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on this Monday, 15 February 2021. She is the first woman as well as the first African to lead the WTO.
Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed by the WTO after the rival candidate, who is the South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee withdrew from the race. She is to take up her post on 1st March 2021, initially serving a term until August 2025.
As an economist and former Finance minister of Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala received major support from WTO members including, Japan, China, the European Union and Australia. The United State, however, under the Trump Administration has favoured trade minister Yoo.
In an interview with CNN, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says that “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.” She further adds that “One of.. top priorities that I have, that I am passionate about, is how can trade and the WTO play a stronger role in bringing solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic, both on the health side but also on the economic side,” – she told CNN.
The first Back African Director-General of the WTO has spent 25 years of her career as a development economist at the World Bank, rising to the position of the managing director. She has also been the Chairperson of the board of Gavi, currently helping in the distribution of coronavirus vaccine around the world. Responding to the concerns that rich countries are not doing enough to share vaccines, Okonjo-Iweala suggests that the WTO has to implement rules that will allow access and equity for vaccines, and therapeutics and diagnostics.
The appointment of Okonjo-Iweala has been hailed as a significant achievement by people in her native Nigeria and an #ankaraarmy has already been formed online, which refers to the distinctive African print she wears.