BrandArena: Okonjo-Iweala Emerges First African to Lead World Trade Organisation

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Okonjo-Iweala Emerges First African to Lead World Trade Organisation

Nigerian-born economist and international development expert, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been appointed the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). She became the first African and first woman to lead the Organisation.

The former Nigerian Finance Minister beat South Korean Yoo Myung hee, polling 104 votes from 164 member countries to emerge as the DG of the World Trade Organisation. She becomes the first woman and first African to lead the global body.

She will be taking over from WTO’s current Director-General, Roberto Azev√™do. On 14 May 2020, Roberto announced via a teleconference that he would resign as the Director-General on 31 August the same year, just a year before his second 4-year term as WTO’s Director-General expires.

The body has come under immense pressure to justify its relevance after the US effectively paralyzed its ability to settle disputes.

Interestingly the European Union-backed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala while the United States backed South Korea’s Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade chief.

The World Trade Organization is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.

The WTO officially started on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948.

The body currently has 164 member nations and Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala faces an uphill task trying to restore the credibility and relevance of the body. She will need to draw from her 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala sits on a number of boards including Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC)

The official announcement is expected to be made by the WTO at 3pm Nigerian time today.

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