Former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has secured the majority of votes as a candidate for Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She garnered 104 votes from 164 member countries, defeating the South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-Hee in the race to become the WTO’s first female leader. If the recommendation of her is approved, she will also become the first African to hold the position, regarded as among the most demanding jobs in the global system.
Okonjo-Iweala’s campaign was, in part, based on multilateralism and better deals for developing economies, especially in a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and compromised by a trade war between the USA and China—the latter of which contributed to the stepping down of the former DG, Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo.
“Multi-lateralism has never been needed more than now,” Okonjo-Iweala told The Africa Report during her campaign. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that this is the time we need to act in solidarity to have multilateral solutions, because there are simply some things in the world that bilateral or even sub-regional solutions cannot solve.”
The election came two days after Okonjo-Iweala was endorsed by the European Union. Her other prominent supporters include the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, the billionaire Aliko Dangote, the African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.
The USA, however, has opted out of endorsing her.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.