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Okonji Iwela Positions To Become The First Female WTO Leader

Change is life, yet the smallest degree of change triggers fear of response in everyone. The alteration the pandemic brought globally led the organization to pilot its substantive work to a halt last year. The unprecedented discontinue prompted the previous director-general-Roberto Azevedo, to quit unexpectedly. 

The change may have been colossal, but it has given room to a new horizon. Nigeria's former finance minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks to be positioned as the first female WTO leader. Ahead of the vote, the economist mogul received the backing of the European Union for her candidacy. On February 5, 2021, Yoo Myung-hee announces that she is withdrawing from the race. In "close consultation with the United States. 

The position is not surprising as the renowned economist has set a record of excellence in her portfolio, toppled with the Biden administration declaring its "strong support" for her to serve as the WTO's next director-general on February 5, 2021.

The WTO is known for its ability to regulate international trade between nations. And with its headquartered In Geneva, the World Trade Organization (WTO)- is the only international organization that deals with the global rules of transactions. The organization has been ensuring the smooth flow of commerce as freely as possible for over 26 years. 

Yet, in recent times, the organization is seen struggling to achieve significant multilateral agreements. Its trade-monitoring function has been underperforming, leading former U.S. President Donald Trump to neutralize the WTO appellate body in late 2019.

The organization has faced difficult times in the past year. All three monuments of the Geneva-based trade body’s work are currently under threat. Although the organization is known to modulate international trade resolutely, for decades, the functionality of the organization is still under test. As China’s brand of state economy expands its footprint on the global economy, arousing criticism from Brussels to Brasilia.

It would not be out of place to say the organization is fast becoming an edentulous bureaucracy during the most disruptive period for international commerce in generations. When last year it had a budget that totaled $220 million and a staff of more than 600.

The incoming chief of the World Trade Organization, who is said to have a reputation for shaking up the guardians of wealth, and power would change a lot in the consortium. During her first tour of duty as Nigeria’s finance minister, her efforts to root out corruption was laudable. A giant force like this is what WTO needs now to revamp its downsides.

She is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization- NOI-Polls. Last year, the International Monetary Fund's Managing Director- Kristalina Georgieva, allotted her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges. Early this year, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as co-chair – alongside Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Lawrence Summers – of the High-Level Independent Panel (HLIP). On financing the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response, established by the G20.

The 66-year-old development economist, and incoming WTO head, popularly called “Okonjo Wahala” — “Okonjo the trouble maker.” by her opponents is known for turning things around firmly and holding power to account. She spectacularly bears a high record at the world-bank, where she spent 25 years of service. Okonjo-Iweala has also been part of UNESCO's International Commission on the Futures of Education, chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde since 2019. And she's been serving on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health).

The World Trade Organization schedules to hold a meeting in the coming days where its members will consider a final decision on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. 

The race is on. Nigeria and the advocates of the Harvard-educated development economist- Okonji Iweala want her to win.

Hopefully, she wins. For it will bring about a positive transposition in the interrelations between Nigeria and the United States. 

That, I must say, is something beautiful to look forward to under the Biden administration.

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