Okonjo-Iweala makes history as first African WTO DG

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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday announced Nigeria’s former minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as its director general.

Okonjo-Iweala who is the first woman, first African and first black person to occupy the position was affirmed as the new head of global trade body at the special meeting of its general council on Monday.

WTO had been without a substantive head since its former director general, Roberto Azevêdo, a Brazilian, resigned on August 31, 2020.

Okonjo-Iweala had last October secured the vote of 163 of the 164 members of the trade organization, but could not be declared the head of the WTO because the organisation’s selection rules stipulate that its director general has to emerge by consensus.

The United State government of former President Donald Trump had opposed her emergence as the head of the global trade body, backing instead South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee for the position.

Supported by the US, she later became Okonjo-Iweala’s sole opponent after other contestants withdrew from the race last year.

She recently announced her withdrawal from the race, after discussions with the United States and other major nations.

The new United States government of President Joe Biden penultimate week gave its formal approval to the emergence of Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director General, thereby removing the final obstacle to her bid to be the first woman and the first African to run the Geneva-based trade body.

The director general of the WTO is appointed for a term of four years and the office supervises the WTO secretariat of about 700 staff.

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