Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is reportedly set to become the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This comes after South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, who was also a finalist for the top WTO position, announced that she planned to withdraw from the race this past Friday. Hence, as the only remaining finalist, and with the recently-elected Biden-Harris administration having endorsed her candidacy, Okonjo-Iweala, will become both the first African and first woman to ever helm the WTO in its 25-year history.
In September of last year, Kenyan Sports, Culture and Heritage Minister, Amina Chawahir Mohamed, and Okonjo-Iweala were selected as the top candidates for the director-general position for the WTO. They were the only two African women in the running at the time. Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy, however, had been blocked by the former Trump administration, according to The New York Times.
According to a press statement by the office of the US trade representative, “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy. She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organisation with a diverse membership.” European Central Bank President, Christine Lagarde, also responded to Okonjo-Iweala’s historic appointment in a recent interview saying, “[Okonjo-Iweala] is this wonderful, soft, very gentle woman with an authentic approach to problems but, boy, under that soft glove there is a hard hand and a strong will behind it.”
Okonjo-Iweala is certainly an excellent pick for the top post having already served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, having been a development economist at the World Bank for 25 years and the current chairperson of the board for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. Her appointment will follow that of Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo who resigned last year citing personal reasons and subsequently left the organisation without a successor.