Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala makes history as first woman and African to lead WTO

Published On March 19, 2021 | By Tina Nalova Ikome-Likambi | International, News

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a 67-year-old Nigerian-American has become a source of pride for fellow Nigerians after she was selected by consensus to head the World Trade Organization (WTO) as its seventh director-general.

The General Council of the World Trade Organization announced the decision on Feb. 15 after U.S. President Joe Biden declared his administration’s support for her candidacy.

Okonjo-Iweala, chosen from eight nominated candidates, replaced Roberto Azevêdo who left office on Aug. 31 last year.

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Kemi Amusan, president of the Nigerian Canadian Association, Greater Toronto Area, said Okonjo-Iweala’s success has inspired women worldwide. Photo credit: Kemi Amusan

Her term, which is renewable, will expire on Aug. 31, 2025.

She expressed her gratitude in a statement to the World Trade Organization General Council and all 164 WTO members after taking office.

“I remain honoured and humbled by the confidence members have placed in me,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “I will bring all my knowledge, passion, experience, and persistence to the task at hand, reforming the organization and achieving results.”

Okonjo-Iweala’s biography published by the WTO stated she is a global finance expert with more than 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

The WTO oversees trade among nations and ensures trade treaties are followed. It can act as arbitrator in trade disputes between nations.

Kemi Amusan, president of the Nigerian Canadian Association, Greater Toronto Area, who is also known as Lady Kay, said Okonjo-Iweala’s achievement is unprecedented.

“It is a plus for women worldwide,” Amusan said. “She is an African from Nigeria which is where I come from, and that drives it home.”

Okonjo-Iweala portrays Nigerians for who they are, rather than the image portrayed by constant negative press about Nigeria, Amusan said.

“She has shown the world who we are as people. We are people who want to read books, get good jobs and live normal lives,” she said.

Amusan said Okonjo-Iweala’s success is an inspiration for women.

“You can be who you are. You can be a woman and get to one of the highest positions in the world,” she said.

“She did not allow anyone to define her,” Amusan said. “She defined herself.”

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