Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala Becomes First Woman, African to Lead WTO


Diplomats in Geneva decided the Nigerian economist should take over the reins of the World Trade Organization. The former finance minister wants to make tackling the economic fallout from coronavirus her top priority.

Diplomats at the World Trade Organization on Monday appointed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the Geneva-based body, becoming the first woman and first African to do so.

The 66-year-old has taken over the reins of the WTO, which helps set the rules for global trade between its 164 member countries.

Her predecessor, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down on August 31, a year before his term expired, to take a job in the private sector.

Okonjo-Iweala said tackling the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic would be her top priority when she takes up the post in March.

She said in a statement that she wanted 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,” the trained economist said.

The new WTO chief in profile

Okonjo-Iweala is a former Nigerian finance minister and foreign minister, who spent 25 years at the World Bank.

That is where she developed a reputation as an advocate for stronger economic growth and development spending in poorer countries.

She made an unsuccessful bid for the Bank’s top post in 2012 with the backing of African and other developing countries, losing to American Jim Yong Kim.

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