Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala becomes the first African woman to lead the WTO

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Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Monday, February 15, as the new leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Her appointment is a consecration for this woman economist within the said world organization.

Elected by consensus at a special meeting of the General Council of the World Trade Organization, the new CEO of the organization is expected to take office on March 1, and her renewable term of office will expire on August 31, 2025.

Career economist and a central figure in her country, where she was twice Minister of Finance and a short stint in diplomacy. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala cut her teeth at the World Bank since 1982 and remained there for 25 years,

With her nomination, she scored a double by being the first female leader of this institution and the first female leader from the African continent.

She replaces Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who resigned from the organization in March 2020, officially for personal and family reasons, and claiming to have no political pretensions. But the Brazilian left an organization entangled in several disabling files.

The handicapped commercial dispute resolution tribunal by the United States is an issue that has yet to be resolved, and although Azevedo is a qualified diplomat, has failed to unblock the appointment of magistrates. Appeal from the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB). The organ has been blocked for several months.

The new leader will also have to find a way to revive this weakened institution’s importance as the United States, under the Trump administration, launched a trade war against China. In this sense, his first words after his appointment echoed this desire to make WHO a “strong” body.

“A strong WTO is essential if we are to fully and quickly recover from the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. (…) Our organization is facing many challenges, but by working together, we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile, and better adapted to today’s realities ”, she declared on Monday after her consecration.

At 66, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala entered the tiny circle of women in power in the world, and these women quickly welcomed her appointment. This is Christine Lagarde’s case, first president of the ECB and former chief patron of the IMF, who greeted “her friend” whom she has known for many years.

“Congratulations to my friend Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who became the first female CEO of @wto. I have known Ngozi for many years. His strong will and determination will lead him to relentlessly promote free trade for the benefit of people around the world, ”she wrote in a tweet.

For her part, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, hailed this “historic moment for the whole world”, also saying that she was “so happy to see a woman from Africa at the head of the @OMC”. “We support the reform of the WTO and will help you protect the rules-based multilateral trading system,” she added.