Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Verge of History

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee

Nigeria’s contender in the race for the post of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee has advanced to the final stage, which has never had a woman serve as director general in its 25-year history.

The international body disclosed today 8th October that WTO members have narrowed two candidates to advance to the third and final round of consultations which will determine the successor to Roberto Azevêdo.

If any of the eventually clinches the post, it would be the first time a woman is leading the organisation since it was established over two decades ago. Also, if the Nigerian wins, she would be the first African to head the group.

According to the body, “Based on the depth and breadth of preferences articulated to the facilitators, Amb. Walker told a Heads of Delegation meeting on 8 October that the two candidates who secured the broadest and deepest support from the membership and who should subsequently advance to the final round are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea.

“The result creates an historic precedent for the WTO in that it assures that the 7th Director-General will become the first woman to lead the organization. These two candidates were chosen from a field of five that had advanced to the second round of consultations.”

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Okonjo-Iweala confirmed this news herself as she posted on her social media handle appreciating Nigerians for the support and love.

She wrote, “Happy to be in the final round of the @wto DG campaign. Thanks, WTO members for your continued support of my candidacy. I could not have made it without the prayers and support of all Nigerians and friends around the world. Thank you @MBuhari and all my friends. Aluta continua!

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 66, is a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

She was Nigeria’s finance minister during the tenures of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan and had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist before rising to the position of Managing Director.

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 stage of consultations.

General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand disclosed that said the third phase of consultations will commence on 19 October and run until 27 October to afford members sufficient time to prepare their positions.

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During this period, WTO members will be asked in confidential consultations to express to the facilitators a single preference and based on these preferences, the troika will deliver their assessment on which of the two candidates is most likely to command a consensus of the membership and become the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

If WTO members are unable to select a leader by consensus, a vote requiring a qualified majority could be held as a last resort, which would be an unprecedented development in the organisation.

The seat for the top WTO job became vacant when Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo decided to step down at the end of August, a year before his term was due to end.

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