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History made as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala picked to head WTO

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History made as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala picked to head WTO

The Nigerian former minister is the first woman and first African to hold this position
Damilola Adewumi
From Africa Renewal: 
26 February 2021
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (right) at the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
UN Photo/Ariana Lindquist
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (right) at the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
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Congratulatory messages continue to pour in following the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

She made history as she will be the first woman and first African to head the global trade body. Her term, which is renewable, will start on 1 March 2021 and will expire on 31 August 2025.

“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 General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand who, together with co-facilitators Ambassador Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Ambassador Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month selection process that culminated in this announcement on 15 February.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also congratulated Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on her historic appointment.

“I look forward to strengthening the UN-WTO partnership, especially at this critical moment for the world,” said Mr. Guterres.

The African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, also sent his congratulations, saying Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment was a “double historic precedent”.

“The AU is pleased that the global consensus in favour of her inspiring leadership prevailed,” said Mr. Faki.

Some of those who sent congratulatory messages include heads of State, heads of international organizations, other leaders, as well as diplomats from different countries. These included President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, as well as Ireland’s President Michael Higgins, Bolivia’s President Luis Arce, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, among others.

On her part, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said a key priority for her would be to work with WTO members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala who will serve as the body’s seventh Director-General.

“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 many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today,” she added. (Read her full statement here).

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed by the world trade organization with broad support from WTO members, including the European Union, China, Japan and Australia.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an international development professional and global finance expert, with over 30 years of working with governmental and international organizations in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

With a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala rose to the position of Managing Director, Operations.

She also served as Nigeria's Finance minister twice from 2003 to 2006 and again in 2011 till 2015, briefly acting as Foreign minister in 2006.  As a true trailblazer, she was the first woman to hold both positions in the Nigerian government.

Sincerest congratulations to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala from Africa Renewal!

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