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Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo makes history as new WTO boss

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Former Nigerian Finance Minister and first female foreign minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the new World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general.

Ngozi was elected in a virtual, special general council meeting by member states. At 66, she becomes the first female -and African- to hold the influential post.

Yoo Myung-hee, South Korean Trade Minister, pulled out of the race when it became obvious she was US President Joe Biden’s candidate of choice. Yoo Myung-hee had the backing of former President Donald Trump.

Ngozi is expected to take up her post on March 1st. Her term will run until August 31, 2025. The term is renewable.

“A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Havard-trained economist said. “I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.”

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Ngozi, who describes herself as reform-oriented, was the front runner even before the process of recruiting a director general kicked off. She has worked at WTO for 25 years.

“Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today,” she said.

Despite critics’ concerns that she is a poor negotiator, Ngozi believes she has the boldness to take WTO to the next level.

She recently took up US citizenship but says she is firmly Nigerian.

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