Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Appointed As WTO’s Director-General
"Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to head the WTO. She will take up her duties on March 1 and her term, renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025," WTO said.
Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed by consensus to appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria, as the next director-general, said the WTO in a press release.
The decision was made at a special meeting of the WTO’s General Council at which the World Bank veteran was formally selected.
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to head the WTO. She will take up her duties on March 1 and her term, renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025,” WTO said.
Extending the “warmest congratulations” to Okonjo-Iweala, General Council Chair David Walker said: “This is a very significant moment for the WTO.”
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is a global finance expert, an economist and an international development professional with over 30 years of experience working around the world.
Twice served as Nigeria’s finance minister and briefly acted as foreign minister, she has a 25-year career at the World Bank, including as Managing Director of Operations.
When she takes office on 1 March, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, 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 Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month DG selection process.
“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,” he added.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala said a key priority for her would be to work with 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,” said Dr Okonjo-Iweala. “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 Okonjo-Iweala also thanked the members of WTO by adding, “I would like to pay tribute to the seven other highly qualified candidates for having come forward to participate in this selection process. The energy and dedication they brought to the process enriched it and underscored our shared belief in the ability of the multilateral trading system to make a significant contribution to the expansion of the global economy for the benefit of all Members. I would like to express my profound gratitude to the WTO membership for electing me to lead this organization at this critical juncture. Special thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari and all my Nigerian compatriots for their support and prayers. I also want to recognise and thank ECOWAS and AU Heads of State, the ACP SG and membership for their early support of my candidacy. Thank you to other Members who supported my candidacy from start to finish of the selection process.”