Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (middle) at the headquarters of the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday as she arrived to take office as the global organisation's chief/Photo: WTO

Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala officially assumes office as WTO chief

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has officially resumed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). 

As she took up her new role on Monday at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the former Nigerian finance and foreign minister said she was eager to get straight to work as the first woman and first African to lead the global body.

“I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do,” Okonjo-Iweala said as she arrived for her first day on the job in Geneva.

“I feel ready to go.”

Hopes abound that the 66-year-old will be able to help the WTO address a range of towering challenges, including navigating through the global economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.

“The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralysed and moribund,” she told AFP a day after her nomination last month.

Following a lengthy selection process, Okonjo-Iweala, a development economist who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was finally anointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.

From an initial eight candidates, she was the clear favourite among the last two standing in November. However, her appointment was delayed by former US president Donald Trump blocking her nomination.

The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.

WTO, with 164 members representing 98 per cent of global trade, is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements and settle trade disputes. 

Kola Tella


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