It was an iconic moment for Nigeria and Africa as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The appointment meant that she is the first Nigerian and the first African to occupy the office. And most notably, she became the first woman to ever rise to such height.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta state, Nigeria, to a royal family. Having had her early education in Enugu and Ibadan, she moved into the United States as a teenager to further her studies. She later graduated from the renowned Harvard University as an Economist and bagged her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Her strong educational background has helped her become a global icon as an economist. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had enjoyed a 25-year successful spell with the World Bank, where she rose to Managing Director.
Felicitating with her on her appointment as the Director-General of the WTO, the WTO General Council Chair, David Walker, said, “This is a very significant moment for the WTO. On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO’s next Director-General and formally welcome her to this General Council meeting,”
Her prowess in the political sphere mostly brought Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to the peak of the limelight in Nigeria. She served two tenures as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance with many accolades to her name. A very notable feat was when she led negotiations with the Paris Club that eventually resulted in the dissolving of Nigeria’s 30 billion US dollars debt at the time.
To promote transparency in the Nigerian government, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, as the Minister of Finance, pioneered the publishing of the monthly financial allocation of each state in Nigeria. She also introduced specific e-financial management platforms to help combat construction. Some of these e-financial platforms include the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), etc.
The life and the rise of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala have proven an enormous source of inspiration for many women and young girls alike. She leads a life of a perfect blend of humility, utmost courage, and resilience for good.
Despite having US citizenship, she does not fail to flaunt her African origin, most notably depicted by her regular “Ankara dresses.” Despite her fame, the supposed peacefulness of her home also suggests that she is not just a good woman but a good wife and mother.
By becoming the first female Finance Minister of her nation, she has inspired many to believe that female folk can rise above their limitations and make giant strides in politics. She also fostered empowerment to women and young people through the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria program and the Youth Enterprise With Innovation program.
Reiterating her commitment to her duties, Dr. Ngozi remarked in her statement, “At the WTO, the DG leads from behind working with the talented secretariat staff to help Members achieve results. You can count on me to be proactive, work hard, be balanced, fair, professional, and objective to continuously earn and sustain your trust. That way, together, we can restore and rebrand the WTO as a key pillar of global economic governance, a force for a strong, transparent, and fair multilateral trading system, and an instrument for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.”