Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala may Lead the World Trade Organization (WTO)

The selection of a new director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is entering its final stage. Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee have been selected as the women finalists who could lead the World Trade Organization to succeed Roberto Azevedo as director-general, having edged out other contestants. The list of candidates for WTO director-general included;

  • Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri – Saudi Arabia
  • Liam Fox – UK
  • Jesús Seade Kuri – Mexico
  • Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh – Egypt
  • Amina Mohamed – Kenya
  • Yoo Myung-hee – South Korea
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Nigeria
  • Tudor Ulianovschi – Moldova

The statement released on Thursday by the Trade body indicated that,

“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 final announcement is expected to happen soon. According to Blomberg reports,

“By advancing two women to the final round of the selection process, the WTO will likely have the first female director general in its 25-year history,”

Both are female which means that if the mantle of the WTO leadership should be on one them in the final stages of selection, it will be the first time in the history the job has been taken by a woman.

Watch Live: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Bono at Davos - ONE

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – (Nigeria)

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a global finance expert, an economist, and international development professional with over 30 years of experience. She has worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the finance minister serving first under Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo from 2003 to 2006 and also from 2011 to 2015 under President Goodluck Jonathan. The one-time Nigerian foreign minister has also been in other world scene as a development economist at the World Bank where she worked for 25 years, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. She is renowned as the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012, backed by Africa and major developing countries.

She is the founder of Nigeria’s first ever indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls. She also founded the Center for the Study of Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research based in Abuja, Nigeria. Other currently held posts include;

  • Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, which, since its creation in 2000, has immunised 680 million children globally and saved ten million lives.
  • . Chair of the Board of the African Union’s African Risk Capacity (ARC), an innovative weather-based insurance mechanism for African countries;
  • . Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate with Lord Nicholas Stern and Mr Paul Polman.
  • . Chair of the Board of the Nelson Mandela Institution, an umbrella body for the African Institutes of Science and Technology,
  • . Chair of the Board of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja.
  • . Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala graduated with great distinction in Economics from Harvard University (1976), and earned a Ph.D. in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, 1981). She has received honorary degrees from 15 universities worldwide, including some from the most prestigious colleges: Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Trinity College (University of Dublin), Amherst College, Colby College, Tel Aviv University, and Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica.

She also has honorary doctorate degrees from a host of Nigerian universities including Abia State University, Delta State University, Oduduwa University, Babcock University, among others.

She is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines (MIT Press, 2018), Reforming the UnReformable: Lessons from Nigeria, (MIT Press, 2012), and Mobilizing Finance for Education in the Commonwealth (Commonwealth Education Report 2019).

She is married to Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon, and they have four children and three grandchildren.

LEAD) Seoul's trade minister among 2 finalists in race for new WTO chief:  report | Yonhap News Agency

Myung-Hee – (South Korea)

Yoo Myung-hee on the other hand, could be the second Asian to head the organization, after Thailand’s Supachai Panitchpakdi, who led the agency in the early 2000s.

Yoo Myung-hee is the first female Trade Minister for the Republic of Korea. She has made an impressive career for over 25 years in multilateral trade arena as an innovator, negotiator and strategist. This has over the years proved South Korean consistent prosperity and growth in the multilateral trade world

In her early days in 1995, she took charge of WTO affairs in the Korean Ministry of Trade Industry and Energy, and later as Korea’s key FTA strategist and, recently, negotiator of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the Korea-China FTA and the critical Korea-U.S. (KORUS) FTA renegotiation, among other trade initiatives.

She has worked with countries spanning all levels of development, in various WTO and FTA negotiation settings as well as through her work experience in the APEC Secretariat (2010 to 2014) and the Korean Embassy in China (2007 to 2010).

Minister Yoo is a strategist, laying out long-term visions to be followed, and at the same time when faced with unexpected hurdles, able to proactively develop and pursue practical deliverables that are meaningful under the circumstances.

She received her M.A. in Public Policy from Seoul National University in Korea and her Juris Doctorate from Vanderbilt University Law School in the U.S., and was admitted to the New York State Bar in May 2003.

She is married with two children.


The contest has been left for these two powerhouse women from Asia and West Africa. The final phase of selection is scheduled to conclude on November 6, with the new director general of the Geneva-based international trade body taking office in December.

According to Bloomberg Report, “Clouding the outlook for the selection process is the U.S. presidential election Nov. 3. The WTO makes decisions on a consensus basis, and a lack of American support for any of the finalists could mean delays in picking the new director-general.”

The United States is yet to announce support for any candidate so far, which seems to affect the selection process.

Who do you think will lead the WTO? …

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