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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: First female and African DG-WTO

February 17, 2021 NOI-Her Appointment at WTO; How You can Benefit -Part 1

On 15 February 2021, our very own Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as Director-General (DG) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Her term will begin on 1 March 2021, when she will become the first woman and the first African to hold the office.

We forgot the myriads of issues bedevilling us, albeit momentarirly, to celebrate this appointment. She made double history with this appointment, thus becoming the first female and African DG of the WTO.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert. She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Previously, Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007–2011). She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. She was the first woman to serve as the country’s finance minister and the first woman to serve in that office twice (talk about double-double). In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.

Her agenda at the WTO
As the DG of the WTO, NOI has promised in the past to contribute her quota to the African and world economy.

“It is done! Thank you @WTO members for finalizing my election today and making history. But now the real work begins. Ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual!”

These were the words tweeted by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday evening, hours after she was appointed as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

It is done! Thank you @WTO members for finalizing my election today and making history. In the 73 years of GATT and WTO, honored to be First Woman and First African to lead. But now the real work begins. Ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual! pic.twitter.com/apnAalHWf5
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) 
February 15, 2021

Some stakeholders, especially her critics, may be wondering what she meant by “Forget Business as usual.” The sentence could mean it was time for her to implement the reforms she had promised if appointed as the first female DG of the global trade body.

In one of the interviews granted in the heat of the contest in 2020, the two-time former Nigerian Finance Minister was emphatic that her reason for being optimistic to be crowned the next DG was that her negotiating skill was immeasurable a shown in her records.

Okonjo-Iweala had promised to contribute her quota to the African and world economy.

In her interview with Manuela Saragosa on Business Daily on BBC, she reeled out what her appointment meant for Africa and her plans for WTO. She explained that the job was extremely important for Africa because the continent had never held the position, and African countries felt they could benefit better from the World Trading System.

She added that the continent had negotiated a monumental agreement (the African Continental Free Trade Agreement) to strengthen the economies of the continent and enable them to trade with each other better, as well as face the trading system of the world together. She said, “Africa’s trade is about 3% of the world trade and that needs to increase.
Having an African at the WTO is something that will benefit Africa but the intention I have is to make sure that all parts of the world benefits.”
 (Nairametrics)

How You can Benefit

The most eye-catching part of Okonjo-Iweala’s plan is to “modernise the WTO” by making 21st-century rules for 21st-century commercial practices.
She hailed the rise of a global digital economy and of she was particularly excited everytime she mentioned e-commerce.

“We have to look at the digital economy which has become so prominent during this pandemic. E-commerce is key and will grow in leaps and bounds as we move on. WTO does not presently have rules that underpin e-commerce.”

As if to justify the need for such rules, Okonjo-Iweala said “e-commerce will help us be more inclusive of women and MSMEs,” creating a more equitable economic environment for all people.

To be continued

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