Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal becomes Director General of WTO

This will see her also become the first ever African and female to be appointed into the role.

With the world facing a critical moment in its history, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could prove vital in both addressing the current issues surrounding WTO and the pioneering of gender and racial equality globally.

This appointment comes at a pivotal moment for the WTO. The organization is currently at a crossroads due to its functions being under pressure and in need of reform. Its administration has been at the heart of several issues over the past few years including in multilateral trade rules, serving as a forum for trade negotiations and providing a mechanism to settle trade disputes. Addressing these issues immediately would help it to continue functioning efficiently and pave the way for the removing of trade barriers and creating a more predictable and transparent trading environment, which have been non-existent for some time.

However, there is now hope as the seeds of reform have started to be sown. Following a long process, the WTO made the statement of appointing Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as its new chief to turn its, and the world’s, fortunes around. In the process, she has become the first African and first woman to take on this role – but it is not the first time she has made history.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has always been a groundbreaker. As the chair of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, she has overseen incredible immunisation efforts throughout the world, including for millions of children. In addition, in her role as Managing Director of the World Bank, she was able to achieve $81bn (£58bn) worth of operations.

Her success does not stop there. When she was in charge of Nigeria’s finances, the continent’s biggest economy, she was able to help secure significant deals to greatly reduce the country’s debt, with Nigeria currently owing $30bn.

She has also been listed as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women and was also included in the 10 most influential women as she dedicates herself to reform.

However, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is mindful of what her victory represents – and she has made it clear that it cannot be business as usual.

Her appointment is a testament to her proven background and desire to achieve. The WTO’s confidence in addressing the current situation and looking towards the future clearly shows a shift in the paradigm. It would have been easy for them to appoint a male to the role, and it would not have surprised many, where 78% of men already occupy the top roles at companies and organisations. But this appointment shows that the world is looking towards a brighter future. Dr Onjo-Iweala has achieved this role on merit and has consistently shown she is able to change organisations for the better regardless of her race or gender.

She is aware that things need to change, and she is already working towards achieving this. Following her appointment, she said that to tackle the challenges caused by COVID19, “small steps, early wins and successes can then help create the trust and allow you to do the bigger reforms.”

Her statement is clear and her call to action for togetherness is one that is vital in ensuring the world gets through this period of uncertainty. She is a symbol of unity and will inspire millions of women, girls, and ethnic minorities who are looking to smash through that glass ceiling.