Editorial : Congratulations, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Boss!


Dr Ngozi  Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria has been nominated to as the first African boss of WTO. Congratulations Madam, you have done Africa proud.

Indeed, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is not only the first African to hold that coveted position but is also the first woman to occupy that prestigious position as head of the WTO. The selection of a new director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) entered its final stage yesterday from an initial list of eight candidates, to two female candidates- Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-Hee.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala also has US nationality, although as her name suggests, is of Nigeria nationality. Much of her career was spent as an economist at the World Bank. She eventually rose to the position of managing director, essentially second in command at the institution.

She is currently chair of the board of the international vaccines alliance, Gavi.  Though Dr Okonjo-Iweala, is not a trade expert, her work as a development economist and finance minister means she has often had to deal with international trade.

The WTO is an organisation under stress because two of the biggest commercial powers on the planet – China and the US – are embroiled in bitter trade conflict. Hence, with the nomination of Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO seems to be heading into new territory.

Yesterday’s announcement that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is to be the new director-general of the World Trade Organization would have been a tremendous boost for Africa and lines her up for one of the toughest jobs in the international system.

She won the support from the vast majority of member states, including the EU, Japan and China, but not the United States. She will have to lead the charge for a revival of multilateralism, in the negotiating chambers of the WTO and for a better deal for developing economies.

We can but only wish her all the best and hope here tenure will see trade thrive without any inhibitions.

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