Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank veteran. AFP
Gulf Today Report
Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed on Monday as the first female and first African head of the World Trade Organization, at a special general meeting.
"WTO members have just agreed to appoint Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general," the global trade body said in a statement, adding that the former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran will take up her post on March 1.
The former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran will be formally inaugurated as the global trade body’s new director-general after the WTO special general council meeting.
WTO has been without a leader after Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August.
The 164-member organisation's special session gets underway at 14:00 GMT and Okonjo-Iweala is scheduled to hold an online press conference two hours later.
Okonjo-Iweala is expected to take over an organisation deep in multiple crises and struggling to help member states navigate the severe global economic slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
She described herself as "a reform candidate," the best out of the other candidates.
She has among other things warned that growing protectionism and nationalism have been spurred on by the pandemic and insists barriers need to be lowered to help the world recover.
Okonjo-Iweala has been Nigeria’s finance minister twice (2003-2006 and 2011-2015). She was also its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint in 2006.
She has brushed off claims she lacks experience as a trade minister or negotiator, insisting that what is needed to lead the WTO is not technical skills but "boldness, courage".
Okonjo-Iweala has said her priorities include getting long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life back into WTO's Appellate Body.
She is a development economist by training with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Okonjo-Iweala has also had a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two.
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