Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
This followed the convening of the special general council meeting on Monday to lead the global trade organization after unanimous backing from its members.
Okonjo-Iweala becomes the first woman and the first African to head the Switzerland-based institution from March 1, 2021 to August 31, 2025.
An official announcement by the global trade body via social media, tweeted, “BREAKING: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria is appointed as the next WTO Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala makes history as the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021.”
“The decision was taken by consensus at a special meeting today of the organization’s General Council,” said an official.
The 66-year-old is the former Finance Minister of Nigeria and World Bank economist.
“A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by COVID-19 pandemic,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding that the WTO faces many challenges.
She takes charge at a time when developed countries have challenged the development agenda of the WTO such as special and differential treatment provisions and opposed an India-South Africa joint proposal for a temporary waiver of TRIPS obligations to ensure uninterrupted flow of vaccines to the developing and least developed countries.
The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered on May 15 when former Director-General Roberto Azevêdo announced his decision to step down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on August 31, 2020.