Nigeria’s candidate for the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been selected as one of the two female candidates to proceed to the final stage in the race to lead the Geneva-based global trade body.
The second candidate is South Korea’s Ms. Yoo Myung-hee.
With this development, history is set to be made as WTO is expected to have its first female director-general in its 25-year history.
WTO’s General Council Chairman, Mr. David Walker, is expected to formally announce the results to the institution’s delegates in Geneva this morning.
The United Kingdom’s Liam Fox, Kenya’s Amina Chawahir Mohamed Jibril, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri did not secure enough support in the second round of consultations; Bloomberg quoted insiders familiar with the matter as saying.
The third and final phase of the consultation process would begin later this month and run until November 6, after which the WTO would name a consensus winner of the race.
Clouding the outlook for the selection process is the United States’ presidential election holding on November 3.
The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, and a lack of American support for any of the finalists could mean delays in picking the new director-general.
According to analysts, Okonjo-Iweala’s high professional/personal qualities, international contacts and impeccable records as Nigeria’s former Finance minister/Foreign Affairs minister and as former managing director of the World Bank, stand her high above the other contestant.
She is a renowned global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience, having worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
She is presently the Chair of the Board of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Since its creation in 2000, GAVI has immunised over 760 million children across the globe. She also sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Plc and Twitter Inc. She was recently appointed African Union Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support in the fight against COVID-19, as well as Envoy for the World Health Organisation’s access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
In addition, Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 and briefly as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
She had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the number two position of Managing Director (Operations).
As Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala steered Nigeria through the varying degree of reforms, particularly on macroeconomic, trade, financial and real sector issues.
As Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, her several portfolios included oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.