By Anthony Awunor

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has finally emerged on the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Dr Okonjo-Iweala whose appointment is to take effect March 1st, 2021 is former Minister of Finance for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

With her appointment, she has made history as the first, Nigerian, African and the first woman to lead WTO.

She previously served as a Managing Director of the World Bank where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia. 

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during both the food and later financial crisis. She is chaired the replenishment of over $40 billion for the International Development Association (IDA), the grant and soft credit arm of the World Bank.

From September 2006 to November 2007, she was Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Brookings Institution. From June to August 2006, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, overseeing Nigeria’s External Relations; and from July 2003 to June 2006 she served a prior term as Minister of Finance and Economy of Nigeria and head of Nigeria’s much acclaimed Presidential Economic team responsible for implementing a comprehensive home-grown economic reform program that stabilized the macro-economy and tripled the growth rate to an average 6% per annum over three years.

Her achievements as Finance Minister garnered international recognition for improving Nigeria’s financial stability and fostering greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption. 

In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that negotiated the cancellation of 60% of Nigeria’s external debt ($18 billion) with the Paris Club.  The debt deal also included an innovative buy-back mechanism that wiped out Nigeria’s Paris Club debt and reduced the country’s external indebtedness from $35 billion to $5 billion. 

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala oversaw Nigeria’s first Sovereign credit rating of BB—from Fitch and Standard and Poor’s—a rating that grouped Nigeria with other emerging market countries such as Vietnam, Venezuela and the Philippines.

Previously, she pursued a 21-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, where she held the post of Vice President and Corporate Secretary. 
This included two tours of duty (1997-2000) working in the East Asia Region during the East Asian financial crisis; two duty tours in the  Middle East Region, the last (2000-2003) as Director, Operations (deputy vice-president) of the region. 

Dr Okonjo-Iweala also served as Director of Institutional Change and Strategy (1995-1997). From 1989 to 1991, she was Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Operations.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Harvard and has a Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin, Brown University and Amherst College, among others. 

She is the recipient of Time magazine’s European Hero of the Year Award, 2004, for her work on economic reform in Nigeria, Euromoney magazine Global Finance Minister of the year, 2005, Financial Times/The Banker African Finance Minister of the year 2005, This Day (one of Nigeria’s premier newspapers) Minister of the Year award 2004 and 2005.  In 2006, she was named by Forbes magazine as one of 100 most powerful women in the world.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is a member or chair of numerous boards and advisory groups: ONE Campaign, the World Resources Institute, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Nelson Mandela Institution, Friends of the Global Fund Africa, and the African Institutes of Science and Technology as well as the Center for Global Development (CGD).

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