Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala 1st African, Woman to Lead WTO

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February 14, 2021

The World Trade Organization has named as its director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first African and first woman to head up the 164-member organization. The vote to approve her was unanimous.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The former Nigerian finance minister and foreign minister worked at the World Bank in a high-ranking capacity for more than two decades, ending as Managing Director Operations, second in charge. Now 66, she inherits the leadership of the global trade agency at a time of great economic uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic still challenges many countries around the world. As well, China and the United States, the countries with the world's two largest economies, have engaged in an escalating trade war for the past few years.

Okonjo-Iweala earned economics degrees from Harvard University and (a PhD from) the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She twice served as Nigeria's finance minister and was instrumental in eliminating her country's $30 billion debt.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

She has worked in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. One of her most recent roles was chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, which in 20 years has brought immunity to nearly 700 million children worldwide. She is also the chair or co-chair of numerous other high-profile international organizations.

The author of numerous books and articles, Okonho-Iweala most recently wrote the book Women and Leadership with former Australian Prime Minister Jullia Gillard.

Her husband, Ikemba, is a surgeon; the couple have four children and three grandchildren.

Okonjo-Iweala was one of eight candidates who sought to succeed outgoing leader Robert Azevêdo, who resigned in November 2020 after seven years in the role, leaving a year early in order to go into the private sector.

WTO logo

The World Trade Organization (WTO), based in Geneva, began in 1995 with the Marrakesh Agreement, which 123 nations signed in order to create a replacement for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which arose out of a post-World War II need for international economic cooperation. The WTO specializes in regulating trade in goods, services, and intellectual property. Among the other duties of the staff of more than 600 are negotiating trade disputes.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2020
David White

Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2020
David White