After several months of delay, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been named the Director-General of World Trade Organisation, WTO.
With her emergence, Okonjo-Iweala becomes the first African and first woman to lead the global organisation.
She could have emerged the WTO boss in late 2020, but the then American President Donald Trump threw his weight behind South Korea Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
Okonjo-Iweala, despite her major opponent stepping down from the contest, and after key ambassadors of the trade organisation recommended her for the job, Trump became a stumbling block in her way; but now she has been finally appointed the DG of the organisation on Monday.
This follows last week’s endorsement of the 66-year-old former two-time Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and World Bank Chief by the Joe Biden administration, which thus dismantled the only obstacle in her way.
The WTO has remained leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down last August, one year ahead of schedule.
The process of picking one of eight candidates to succeed him had been expected to be wrapped up in November last year, but the Trump administration blocked the consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala said her priorities include getting long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life back into WTO’s Appellate Body.
Okonjo-Iweala was twice Nigeria’s Finance Minister between 2003 and 2006 and 2011-2015. She was also Nigeria’s first female Foreign Affairs Minister, during a two-month stint in 2006, and is seen as a trailblazer in her West African homeland.
She has brushed off claims she lacks experience as a trade minister or negotiator, insisting that what is needed to lead the WTO is not technical skills, but “boldness, courage.”