Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Monday as the first female and first African head of the beleaguered World Trade Organization, saying a stronger WTO would be vital for the global coronavirus recovery. The WTO called a virtual special general council meeting at which member states officially selected the former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran as the global trade body’s new director-general.
She will take up her post on March 1 and her term, which is renewable, will run until August 31, 2025. The near-paralysed institution desperately needs a kick-start — something Okonjo-Iweala immediately addressed after being confirmed in the job. “A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the 66-year-old economist said in a statement. “I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.
“Our organisation 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.” South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee had been the only other remaining contender for the post but pulled out when it became clear that new US President Joe Biden was swinging firmly behind Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.