History is made – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now WTO Director-General

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 February 2021:

WTO members made history yesterday, 15th of February, 2021 when the General Council agreed by consensus to select Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the organization’s seventh Director-General.

When she takes office on 1 March, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, will expire on 31 August 2025.

“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,” said General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand who, together with co-facilitators Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month DG selection process.

“Dr Ngozi, on behalf of all members I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and for your patience. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr Ngozi, and I am certain that all members will work with you constructively during your tenure as Director-General to shape the future of this organization,” he added.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” said Dr Okonjo-Iweala. “A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today.” Her full statement is available here.

The General Council decision follows months of uncertainty which arose when the United States initially refused to join the consensus around Dr Okonjo-Iweala and threw its support behind Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea. But following Ms Yoo’s decision on 5 February to withdraw her candidacy, the administration of newly elected US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dropped the US objection and announced instead that Washington extends its “strong support” to the candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

Amb. Walker extended his thanks to all eight of the candidates who participated in the selection process and particularly to Ms Yoo “for her ongoing commitment to and support for the multilateral trading system and for the WTO”. His full statement is available here.

The General Council agreed on 31 July that there would be three stages of consultations held over a two-month period commencing 7 September. During these confidential consultations, the field of candidates was narrowed from eight to five and then two.

On 28 October, General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand had informed members that based on consultations with all delegations Dr Okonjo-Iweala was best poised to attain consensus of the 164 WTO members and that she had the deepest and the broadest support among the membership. At that meeting, the United States was the only WTO member which said it could not join the consensus.

The consultation process undertaken by the chair and facilitators was established through guidelines agreed by all WTO members in a 2002 General Council decision. These guidelines spelled out the key criteria in determining the candidate best positioned to gain consensus is the “breadth of support” each candidate receives from the members.

During the DG selection processes of 2005 and 2013, breadth of support was defined as “the distribution of preferences across geographic regions and among the categories of members generally recognized in WTO provisions: that is (Least developed countries), developing countries and developed countries”. This same process, agreed by all members in the General Council in 2020, was strictly followed by Chair Walker and his colleagues throughout the 2020-21 DG selection process.

The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered on 14 May when former Director-General Mr Roberto Azevêdo informed WTO members he would be stepping down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on 31 August.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation today published a statement welcoming this historic appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the WTO. This is what the statement says:

“The Mo Ibrahim Foundation welcomes the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). As its first female and first African leader, this is a significant moment.

“This comes at a difficult time for multilateralism. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, a tumultuous period for global trade and increasing nationalist tendencies, the WTO faces significant challenges. Our sister Ngozi will fill this critical role with experience, wisdom and determination – steering an inclusive global trade agenda that is the only way to lift millions out of poverty and bring shared prosperity to the world.

“We hope that the WTO will temporarily waive the specific Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This will provide the know-how to manufacture vaccines in Africa, a key step in enabling access to vaccines for all as quickly as possible. This is the only way to ensure a global, coordinated effort to contain COVID-19. If there is one emergency we must address, this is it.

“A close friend of our Foundation from its very beginning, and member of the inaugural Prize Committee, the new Director-General of the WTO can rely on our full and committed support.”

The Sierra Leone Telegraph wishes Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala every success in her new role as head of the World Trade Organisation.


  1. Anyone who thinks or even remotely believes that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a divinely chosen savior of the African continent must be as gullible as little children who are still wearing left shoes on their right feet.(lol) Impressive as her record may seem to many, it is only because they have not thoroughly examined and scrutinized the outcomes of all her puppetry ideas, flimsy policies and ill-advised strategies and stratagems handed and spoon-fed to her by her white colonial employers who not so long ago were belligerent and profit-motivated ruthless slave merchants. For someone, anyone to even suggest or think that because she is a highly educated African woman that proudly promotes, stimulates and encourages others to boldly showcase our African culture and tradition in an attractive and favorable manner she is surely going to be someone who will highlight the nerve-wrecking plight of millions of our struggling poor people is not only childish and immature but naive.

    To those who are convinced that White people have nothing to do with the problems being faced by our regressive African continent currently, I implore them to reflect in solitude and re-examine their thoughts once again. Think for a minute – all of the celebrated African leaders that could have transformed our continent into a self-sufficient paradise were overthrown by (WHITE PEOPLE) the C.I.A – The legendary Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lunumba and the enigmatic Thomas Sankara. White people in the C.I.A also supported the UNITA and FNLA rebels in Angola with weapons, military expertise and millions of dollars in a civil war in which 500,000 people died and over one million were internally displaced. White people in C.I.A were responsible for the 1962 arrest of Nelson Mandela and they supported Hisseine Habre in a failed attempt to take over power by force in Chad in 1980, only for him to return fired up once again in 1982 that led to the overthrow of the President through a brutal civil war.

    White people – In the Central Intelligence Agency folks, were responsible for all the anarchy, bedlam and needless mayhem our defenseless, poor people quietly suffered through. Answer – Who do you trust? A wolf that dresses in sheep’s clothing or a sheep, shaved clean, naked and bare, that is still a harmless, loving, caring sheep. Dr Iweala was once the Finance Minister of Nigeria that looked away unperturbed, while politicians plundered and robbed the nation’s coffers dry, leaving countless millions languishing in abject poverty. Is this someone you trust? Seriously, you cannot be serious!(lmao)

  2. Mr Kalokoh – You say that factoring in Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s gender and racial attributes in discussing whether her appointment is of relevance to ‘the collective’ is superficial (your exact words are ‘gender and racial surface representations’) and, by implication, pointless. And yet you use the term ‘black collective’ yourself, which, to my mind, foregrounds a racial epistemic and interpretative stance! Elsewhere, you refer to ‘African people’, ‘many Africans […] shackled in the system of whiteness’, and ‘I am speaking for a whole race of people…’, etc. These are terms and expressions that seem to me to put the issue of race front and centre of your ‘reasoning and moral perspective’, meaning your quest (I stand to be corrected here though) for a world order where those on behalf of whom you say you speak, are able to live positive and dignified lives, free from white capitalist dominance and exploitation.

    Do you not then see that speaking of the value of Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment in terms of her being a highly educated and capable black African woman cannot be characterized as being simply a case of ‘gender and racial surface representstions’? In my view, it is instead a key to understanding why the value of her appointment goes beyond what she personally stands to benefit from it. Seen through the prism of her race and gender, her appointment exemplifies what an African woman with drive and energy can do to improve her lot, thereby becoming a role model, an inspiration for others at home in Africa and in the diaspora. You see, we cannot change overnight the lot of an entire continent and its people that have known the ravages and indignities of slavery, colonisation and neocolonisation. Particularly so when our own leaders – largely men – have, in the last sixty years or so following our achievement of political independence, failed us woefully, leaving the continent mired in abject poverty, rampant corruption, ruthless political dictatorship and civil wars.

    Perhaps it is time that African women of proven competence and global stature were given a chance to map out a way forward for our people. Perhaps the likes of Dr Okonjo-Iweala who have track records of navigating the economically lopsided worlds of white affluence and black indigence have something worthwhile to offer to help bridge the unconscionable gap. I see that you are very dismissive of Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s achievements as Nigeria’s former Finance Minister. However, other people may have a completely different take on what she was able to accomplish while serving in the governments of Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

    • Thanks Mr Yillah. You could not have put it so starkly. The development and lack of development in Africa, is quite literally in the hands of our African leaders and us the citizens of this vast continent. The decisions they take on behalf of us all, and the impact it has on our lives is solely their own making. We had few visionary leaders after independence. But those African leaders that were advocating for independence led us to believe it will be plain sailing, but soon turned on each other and declared war on their populations. If you think at tbe time of Ghana’s Independence in 1957,the first in Africa, their economy was at par with the the then South Korean economy. It makes you wonder what went wrong.

      Nkrumah was undermined by his fellow Ghanaians, as he was overthrown, while attending a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. Seku Turay his friend, subsequently, invited him and made him a vice president in Guinea. Simlar fate befell Lumumba, Sankara, Tom Mboya, Tafawa Belewa the first prime minister of tbe Northern Region, assassinated by General Ironsi in the 1966 coup. Which subsequently led to the Baifran war in later years. We should not forget the Idi Amin, Bokassa of the CAR, Sankara, Doe, Charles Taylor, our own Sam Bokarie, Rawlings, Foday Sankoh’s war in Sierra Leone. The suffering and wars is not started by outsiders. Today Rawanda and Botswana are shining examples of what leadership is all about. Stop the corruption, use your God-given resources to develop your country. Your destiny is in your hands. Stop the blame game. Unless, if you are talking about our corrupt political classes.

    • Mr. Yillah, you stated that, “However, the very fact that she is the first woman and black African to rise up to the very top of an economic organisation administered from within a heartland of whiteness should be an occasion to celebrate as that achievement is indeed history in the making.”

      I was, and am still refuting this stance of yours. I just do not see how simply being a woman and a black person is used to justify the concerns I initially raised that which you responded to. Mind you that we have surface level black representation within white spaces now, i.e. our heads of states, and most, if not all, are worth a damn. And Yes, those are expressions I use to depict African people. They were used for an intended purpose, which was to serve as part of the buildup that demonstrates the concerns I had.

  3. Not at all my brother Mr Kalokoh. Look at the map of Africa. The centre of the continent is the least diverse in terms of population make up, and least developed in the whole world. Hatti and Jamaica are two Islands where in the caribbean, run by our own black brothers and sisters . But they are two of the least developed countries in the western hemisphere. Maybe only 90 miles away from the USA coast line. Around the equator, is where I call black Africa. The amount of self hate, and wars perpetuated by our own fellow black African brothers against their own citizens, is more common than say in North African countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia or Libya. Now go further south to central Africa , taking in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, the sahel region, that encompasses Mali, Niger, at one point us, Liberia, Ivory Coast, the CAR, and DRC.

    Our own highly educated brothers like Charles Taylor, spent years educating themselves, in the United States. And saw all those developments in those countries, but the only thing he can offer us in return is war, and destruction. In other words the same mentality that we Blackmen had four hundred years ago to capture, and sell our fellow black men, to the white race, we are doing the same self loathing against each other in the form of corruption. White people would never dream of selling a white person to a blackman, or any other race for that matter. They protect themselves.Indians look after each other. Jews look after each other. Majority of homicides in the United States are committed by blackmen against blackmen.You got to ask yourself where this self hate comes from. Look at the DRC. They have never known peace since 1960s.

    Sani Abacha and Mobutu, stole billions of dollars and placed them in offshore accounts, while Nigerians and DRC, families were left struggling to find food to feed themselves.Was that caused by white people? Bottom line is, we don’t like each other. I have spoken to my fellow Sierra Leonean who started a business that caters for Sierra Leoneans. But Sierra Leoneans in that neighbourhood prefer to go, and buy the same product next door – a foreign own shop, that has no link with Sierra Leone. What escape the mind of such Sierra Leoneans, by supporting the Sierra-leoneans shop, and the vendor becomes successful, they might invest in our country. Developing a country starts with little gestures like tbat. Support your own kind where possible. The problem of underdevelopment in our countries is our own black brothers, and sisters that are greedy and corrupt. Just look at Nigeria, they produce oil. But the country cannot meet the demands of its population. Now compare that to any Middle Eastern country. It doesn’t bear thinking how we are exploited by our own so called educated African brothers.Its easy to point the fingers at others for our lack of development. Asian Pacific countries were colonised as well. But look at their tiger economies. But of course they want you to blame the Whiteman, so we don’t scrutinise their wicked and corrupt ways.

  4. Mr. Jalloh, It must also mean that the millions, up to a billion Africans who are dwelling in abject poverty haven’t ‘gone anywhere’ because they also are black nationalists? Is this what you are implying, by stating that I will not be able to move forward being that I am presumably a black nationalist?

  5. Mr. Jalloh, I’m sure Dr. Ngozi is a lovely woman, and a great deal to many in and around her circle, but as you should’ve noticed via the concerns I raised, this isn’t about her personal lifestyle. Personally, I congratulate her. However, this isn’t about that. I’m speaking for a whole race of people, whose plight is significantly highlighted on this forum, which you yourself are aware of and make comments on, which at times gives me the impression that you care and in most cases that you don’t. Make no mistake of the fact that In many ways the Sierra Leonean’s plight is the plight of the majority of Africans around the world. Now, to delve a little deeper into the questions I initially raised is that Dr. Ngozi served the IMF for years, and made Nigeria a leading debtor to IMF and WorldBank as a finance minister, with nothing else significant to show for. This begs the question of what makes you think that her current position will enable her to do different? What are the indicators of potentially showing and proving via WTO after holding a top position in her place of birth, but in terms of economic progress nothing significant came of it?

    What I find even more appalling is that her current employer (WTO), should be aware of her past politics, and the state that Nigeria was in during her time as finance minister https://journal-neo.org/2020/10/23/will-next-wto-head-impose-a-gates-and-davos-agenda/. In spite of all of that they still manage to get her hired. WTO must hail mediocrity.

    “On a personal note, you seem to have an identity crisis.” Followed by,”You have black nationalists that believe in Blackness.” – supposedly implying that I’m a black nationalist. But this would be a stark contradiction Mr. Jalloh, wouldn’t it? I can’t be a black nationalist who endures identity crisis at the same time, can I?. I think it will be an impossible feat to achieve.

    Also, Mr. Jalloh, “Black and White issues, you will never able to move forward or do anything to advance yourself. It’s similar to people that are wedded in TRIBALISM. It is poisonous brother.” By this logic being a Sierra Leonean is also poisonous – supposing that poisonous means bad. If so then why are you even here? What are you advocating for on this forum? By that logic you might as well pack it up and move to the mountains, if that is how you truly feel.

  6. I hear this question being asked: is Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as head of the World Trade Organisation relevant to what the questioner calls ‘the black collective’? The answer is unambiguously this: hugely and unqualifiedly relevant. Of course Dr Okonjo-Iweala stands to benefit personally in terms of the emoluments and perks that come with her high profile job. And it is the case that the world as it is, revolves to a large extent around whiteness and the political, social, cultural and economic institutions it has created and controls. Moreover, by her training and professional profile, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a product of the white world: she is a Harvard-trained economist and previously worked in that quintessence of white capitalist economic creations: the World Bank, headquartered in the US. And she has again just landed a key position in another such economic creation – the World Trade Organisation headquartered this time in Switzerland.

    However, the very fact that she is the first woman and black African to rise up to the very top of an economic organisation administered from within a heartland of whiteness should be an occasion to celebrate as that achievement is indeed history in the making. Her image as an elegantly and traditionally attired African woman is arresting: one of the hallowed precincts of whiteness will for the next four years or so, be under the control of someone whose African cultural provenance is there for all to see. Long gone are the days when it was assumed that black people have nothing between the ears. She is an embodiment of intellectually gifted African women capable of holding their own in a white, masculinist world.

    Additionally, it should be borne in mind that Dr Okonjo-Iweala for all her long sojourn in and experience of the world of whiteness is very firmly rooted in her continent of birth. A Nigerian patriot at heart, she immediately returned home when former President Obasanjo asked her to put Nigeria’s finances in order. More recently, she has been making a case vigorously on behalf of COVAX for the equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines by the poor developing nations of Africa. Her interventions are clearly a measure of her African credentials. She indeed cares about her continent of birth and its peoples; and will undoubtedly serve their best interest during her time as head of the World Trade Organisation. She is a global figure, with a distinctly black African complexion. We must all congratulate her unreservedly.

    • I take heed Mr. Yillah. However, I will have to respectfully agree to disagree regarding the gender and racial surface representation that is being used as an upscale on this matter. Many people’s lives are at stake, and from a reasoning and moral point of view, I just do not see how being a woman or a mere black person is factored as justification for the topic at hand.

  7. Congratulations to this wonderful lady who is always proud of her African culture by her outfits. I watched one of her video clip where she displayed her great sense of humor. Respect to all the grandmothers because she stated that she was raised by her grandma when her parents travelled abroad. May the Almighty continue to bless her with wisdom and understanding.

  8. But what is it to African people though? Does her appointment render positive change and dignity in the lives of the many Africans who are shackled in the system of whiteness? What is there to celebrate? Is it merely one of our own getting a lucrative job that simply benefits her or something more? Who is really at advantage of this made history, and Why should we the black collective care?

    • Mr Kalokoh my Sierra Leone brother, you should be proud of her achievements, given Trump was hell bent on denying her this position. He called African countries sxxxt holes. She is heading the WTO which is made of 164 countries around the world. Their job is to help countries manage trade between countries. So trade rules are implemented and runs smoothly. Although, her job is to help shepherd countries, so advanced economies do not take advantage of smaller countries like ours, by erecting trade barriers which can hinder economic growth, it is nice to know we at least have someone at that table, when trade agreements are reached.

      On a personal note, you seem to have an identity crisis. You should be proud of being a Black man. And if you are White be proud of being white. You will never change the way you are created. Just learn to live with it. You have white nationalists that believe in Whiteness. You have black nationalists that believe in Blackness. The black panthers. To me you are a Sierra Leonean. Period. Because as long as you are locked in that sort of mentality, Black and White issues, you will never able to move forward or do anything to advance yourself. Its similar to people that are wedded in TRIBALISM. It is poisonous brother.

  9. Great African woman with a wealth of experience as a top notch Harvard trained economist and once considered to be among the leading candidates to head the World Bank Group in Washington DC during president Obama’s first term in office. She is immensely qualified to head the WTO.

  10. Congratulations to the first female and first African woman to head the World Trade Organisation. Mrs Ngozi-Okonjo-lweala, the former Nigerian finance minister, to head this international trading body. When I kept saying, one individual leader can make a difference, in whatever capacity they are leading, look no further. Her appointment was only made possible because of the election of Joe Biden. Had Trump got re-elected, her road to head this world body would not have being made possible. Initially, despite her over-qualifications for the job, the Trump administration blocked her candidature, in favour of the South Korean candidate, who gracefully withdrew her candidature that paved the way for this appointment.

    Africa is doing well in heading international organisations. The World Health Organisation, and now the WTO. I wish her well and I hope she put her detractors like Trump to shame. Now she is going to be a shinning example of women and girls around the world. After more than seventy years, since the founding of the WTO, a woman has finally climbed the greasy pole of male-dominated world and booked her place and at long last broke that invincible glass ceiling.

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