he Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has issued a statement congratulating Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria upon her formal selection by the General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was selected by representatives of the 164 countries that make up the WTO, which deals with the rules of trade between nations based on negotiated agreements.
This was after South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee had withdrawn her candidacy, leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only choice. Her predecessor, Roberto Azevedo, stepped down on Aug. 31, a year before his term expired.
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. A Nigerian, she served his country as Minister of Finance twice.
Upon her formal appointment on 1 March 2021, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to head the Organization in its twenty-five years history.
The AU Chairperson also commended the Council for confirming Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy, which enjoyed strong global consensus, including the endorsement of the African Union.
Her immediate priority would rotate around the crisis brought about by the Covid 19 on health and economy, such as lifting export restrictions on supplies and vaccines and encouraging the manufacturing of vaccines in more countries.
“A strong W.T.O. is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said. “Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the W.T.O. stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today.”
W.T.O. was created in 1995 to help settle trade disputes, write new trade rules and encourage the flow of goods and services worldwide.
In an acceptance speech by video link in the W.T.O. headquarters on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged those challenges adding that she was up to task to tackle them.
“It’s been a long and tough road, full of uncertainty, but now it’s the dawn of a new day and the real work can begin,” she said. “The challenges facing the W.T.O. are numerous and tricky, but they are not insurmountable.”
Okonjo-Iwaela takes over the leadership when WTO is facing some challenges that have threatened its effectiveness, including how to manage friction between the United States and China.