Nigerian Economist Makes History As First Black Woman To Lead World Trade Organization


February 12, 2021

Black women make the world go round!

A Nigerian economist is making history as the first Black woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), CNN Business reports. 


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and the former finance minister of Nigeria. She spent more than two decades at the World Bank as a development economist, eventually climbing the ranks to become managing director. She is also the former chair of the board of Gavi, the organization assisting with distributing the coronavirus vaccine globally. Now, Okonjo-Iweala has been tapped to lead the World Trade Organization, making history as the first woman and the first African to hold the title.

The WTO was established nearly three decades ago and is responsible for promoting free trade globally. During the Trump administration, an escalating trade debacle between the U.S. and China left the organization on shaky ground after director-general Robert Azevedo stepped down, ending his term early. The former administration had severe gripes with the WTO and undermined the organization by imposing tariffs on Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union. Yoo Myung-hee, a South Korean trade minister, had been consulting with the U.S. and primed to become the new leader with the former administration’s blessing. But the selection of a new leader requires all WTO members approval, and Myung-hee’s Trump admin endorsement made things shaky for others. She announced her decision to withdraw from the selection process last week, leaving the way for Okonjo-Iweala to step through.


Okonjo-Iweala will assume control, focusing on preventing trade issues between its members. She has the widespread support of WTO members, including those from the European Union, China, Japan, and Australia. Her formal appointment may be put off until the U.S. selects a new trade representative. Still, she is a definite frontrunner, with the bonus of being a native of Nigeria, one of few countries where trade is on the uptick. 

“The WTO needs a leader at this time. It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider, someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in,” Okonjo-Iweala told reporters.

President Biden is working to restore support for “multilateral institutions” and has vowed to put diplomacy back at the center of U.S. foreign policy as long as it benefits middle-class Americans. He has been cautious about signing any new trade deals but hopeful that resolve is on the horizon. The Biden-Harris administration has rallied to support Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment.


“The Biden-Harris Administration is pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director General of the WTO.”



We’re rooting for you!

Congratulations, Ngozi!

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo! News

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