Okonjo-Iweala officially becomes first woman, African to lead the WTO

NGOZI Okonjo-Iweala has been officially named the first woman and African to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed on Monday, 15 February by the General Council of the WTO following several months of the selection process.

According to the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala will serve from 1 March until 31 August 2025 when she might renew her tenure.

Confirming Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment, David Walker, the WTO General Council Chair congratulated the former Nigerian minister on behalf of the General Council.

“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 Walker.

Reacting to her appointment, Okonjo-Iweala said she is honoured to have been selected as the WTO’s DG.

She said a strong WTO is important for member nations to recover from the effects of 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,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

She added that the organisation faces many challenges which can only be solved by working together to make the WTO stronger.

“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,” she added.

The DG selection process was facilitated by Walker, the chairman of the WTO General Council, Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Harald Aspelund (Iceland).

How Okonjo-Iweala became WTO DG

Okonjo-Iweala contested against seven other big profile candidates from Africa, Europe, the Middle-East, North America, and Asia.

After the initial selection processes, the WTO selected Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee of Korea’s Republic for the third and final stage.



    On October 28, Okonjo-Iweala was selected by the Walker-led WTO General Council as the organisation’s next DG.

    However, her selection was opposed by the United States (US) then led by former President Donald Trump.

    According to the US, Yoo is a ‘bona fide trade expert who has distinguished herself during a 25-year career as a successful trade negotiator and trade policymaker’.

    Tides turned for the former Nigerian minister when Yoo Myung-hee bowed out of the race following her ‘consultations’ with supporting countries, including the US.

    Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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