Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala : 1st Woman, 1st African to lead the World Trade Organization

Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed head of the World Trade Organization, becoming the first woman and first African to take on the role.

Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigeria’s finance minister has had a 25-year career at the World Bank as an advocate for economic growth and development in poorer countries. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She rose to the second position of managing director, where she oversaw $81 billion in development financing in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.

In 2012 she made an unsuccessful bid for the top post challenging the tradition that the World Bank is always headed by an American.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Okonjo-Iweala, now 66, has been named director-general by representatives of the 164 countries that make up the WTO.

Her priority would be quickly addressing the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other big tasks include reforming the organization’s dispute resolution process and finding ways for trade rules to deal with change such as digitalization and e-commerce.

“It will not be easy because we also have the issue of lack of trust among members which has built up over time, not just among the U.S. and China and the U.S. and the EU … but also between developing and developed country members, and we need to work through that”

“I absolutely do feel an additional burden, I can’t lie about that. Being the first woman and the first African means that one really has to perform.”

“All credit to members for electing me and making that history, but the bottom line is that if I want to really make Africa and women proud I have to produce results, and that’s where my mind is at now.”

— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Her appointment takes effect on March 1st.

I hope you do feel inspired to stop procrastinating and take that bold step in furthering your career.





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