Nigeria celebrates Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as first African and first female WTO Director General

Nigeria on Monday celebrated former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her emergence as the first African and first female Director General of the World Trade Organization.

In a tweet on Monday, the World Trade Organization confirmed Okonjo Iweala’s appointment, saying her term starts on March 1, 2021.

“Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria is appointed as the next WTO Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala makes history as the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021,” WTO tweeted.

The World Trade Organization 
The World Trade Organization

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that Okonjo-Iweala has brought “joy” and “more honor to the country.”

Buhari was among a chorus of other Nigerian leaders and citizens who celebrated Okonjo-Iweala for making history.

“On behalf of the Federal Government and all Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly felicitates with former Minister of Finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her election as Director General of the World Trade Organization, bringing joy and more honor to the country,” the presidency in Nigeria said in a statement.

“As the Harvard-educated and renowned economist takes up another onerous task of service to the world and  humanity, the President believes her track record of integrity, diligence and  passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind,” said Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu who signed the statement.

Shehu added: “President Buhari affirms that Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who over the years set major records of economic reforms in Nigeria as Minister of Finance, and later Minister of Foreign Affairs, will excel in her new position and validate the global mandate of repositioning and strengthening the multilateral institution for the greater good of all. The President joins family, friends and colleagues in wishing Dr Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavor.”

The president of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmad Lawan, also congratulated Nigeria on  what he described as “the latest feat of its great daughter on the international stage.”

He applauded “the quiet but dogged diplomacy of Nigeria and the unwavering commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari which, no doubt, contributed to the acknowledgement of the sterling credentials of Dr Okonjo-Iweala and her ultimate triumph in the prolonged contest for the  very important position.”

Lawan said in a statement: “I heartily rejoice with Dr Okonjo-Iweala on this well-deserved victory.

“With her latest feat, the former Nigerian Minister of Finance and Managing Director of the World Bank has again brought honour to Nigeria, Africa and women everywhere.”

The Nigerian Senate President urged the new Director-General to deploy her famed intellect, experience, energy and integrity in leading the WTO to promote global prosperity through fair trade.

Lawan said her task has been made even more onerous by the havoc that the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked on economies across the world.

Former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar also celebrated Okonjo-Iweala, saying she is “a woman I know very well.”

Abubakar wrote in a statement: “Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a woman I know very well, because we worked at close quarters between 2003 and 2007, when she served in our administration in various capacities, most notably as Finance Minister.
It is not hyperbole when I say that no one could be more qualified for the job of Director General of the World Trade Organisation than her, and I congratulate her for her success at being the first female and African DG of the WTO.

“She is an apostle of free trade and an astute manager of people and resources, and the world will be a much more prosperous place by her elevation to this enviable height.

“As the world prepares to emerge from the global pandemic of COVID19, the planet needs a steady hand at the wheel, to drive global trade, and rebuild from the devastation wrought by the virus. We would not need someone who thinks they can pull this off. We would need someone who has actually and serially pulled it off before. And that person has emerged.  

“Ngozi, Africa and Nigeria are proud of you and my family and I are full of joy at your victory. Go to Geneva and make us proud, as we know you will.
Congratulations once again and may God bless your tenure.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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