WTO announces first-ever female and African head in historic move

Tuesday, February 16
Ciarán Mather

An esteemed economist from Nigeria has been named as the new director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it has been confirmed. 

The WTO announced the news that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is also a former Finance Minister in her home country, will take the reins of the organisation after her victory was announced at a recent general meeting.  She was up against seven other candidates who all ran for the position.

The news follows a successful campaign demanding Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to be appointed as the head of the WTO after the Trump administration rejected her three months ago.

Pascal Lamy, the person who Dr. Okonjo-Iweale is replacing, spoke highly about the 66-year-old to Reuters: ' She brings stature, she brings experience, a network and a temperament of trying to get things done, which is quite a welcome lot in my view.'

He added: 'I think she's a good choice. [The] Key to her success will be her ability to operate in the centre of a US-EU-China triangle.'

Dr. Okonjo-Iweale's son, Uzodinma Iweala, a writer, also told Reuters: 'People recognise that this is not someone who is going to tolerate nonsense.'

Dr. Okonjo-Iweale grew up in a civil-war torn region of Nigeria, but this did not deter her from studying hard and eventually being accepted into Harvard.

After completing her studies, she began working with the WTO and has continued to do so for the past 25 years.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has also congratulated Dr. Okonjo-Iweale, saying: 'Dr Ngozi and the WTO will be crucial in reinvigorating the global trading system.'

Although Dr. Okonjo-Iweale does not start her new job until March 1st, she appears not to be taking a break, as she recently issued a global warning against the spread of vaccine nationalism.

She added that 'a phenomenon where rich countries are vaccinating their populations and poor countries have to wait' must be avoided.