The World Trade Organization picked its first female leader on Monday, offering a fresh start to an organization seeking to revive its influence over global economic rules. Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as director-general of the World Trade Organization by representatives of the 164 member countries, according to a statement from the body. The appointment came after new US President Joe Biden endorsed her candidacy, which had been blocked by former President Donald Trump.
Born in Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala graduated from Harvard University in 1976 and then earned a PhD from MIT. She then became the first woman to take on the Nigerian finance ministry and the foreign ministry too. She was also the first female to run for the World Bank presidency, where she spent 25 years.
Grateful for the expression of support from the US today for DG @WTO. Congratulations to Madam Yoo of Rep. Korea for a hard fought campaign.Thank You President Muhammadu Buhari @MBuhari &all Nigerians for your unflinching support.Thank you friends. Love to my family.Glory to God.
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) February 5, 2021
She said in a statement that her first priority would be to quickly address the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and to “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,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala will take up her post on March 1 and her term, which is renewable, will run until August 31, 2025. “She was not chosen because she is female or because she is from Africa, but because… she stood out as the candidate with the best qualifications, experience and qualities for the daunting task,” a Western diplomat told.
The World Trade Organization is an international body that deals with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated among the bulk of the world’s nations and ratified in their legislatures.