Nigerian economist and development expert, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made history today, February 15, 2021, after the World Trade Organization (WTO) confirmed her as its new Director-General. The General Council of the WTO agreed today by consensus to select the former Nigerian finance minister as the organization’s seventh Director-General.
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With this, Okonjo-Iweala who is expected to assume work on March 1, 2021, has made history as the first African and first woman to head the post.
Chair of the General Council, David Walker, congratulated the Nigerian and hailed her for being patient throughout the selection process.
‘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. 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.’
It is worthy to note that Okonjo-Iweala has been in pole position to assume the position of DG since last year but has been waiting for a consensus vote, in line with the WTO decision-making tradition since its formation in 1995. However, her path became clearer earlier this month, February, after her rival, Korea’s Yoo Myung hee, withdrew from the race.
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Reacting to her appointment, Dr Okonjo-Iweala noted that a key priority for her office is to work towards confronting the economic and health challenges caused by COVID-19.
‘I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General. 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.’
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
In a very tumultuous time in Nigeria’s socio-political makeup, this is a welcome development. It shows that in the ruins, treasures can still be found. Congratulations, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala! Congratulations, Nigeria!
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