Buhari Meets WTO DG, Okonjo-Iweala On Production Of Vaccine

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Mr Onyeama at a meeting in New York, the United States.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ahead of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The discussions between the duo centred on getting manufacturers of vaccines to invest in production in Nigeria, and Africa at large and help economies recover faster.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who accompanied him to the United States alongside other appointees, spoke about the speech to be delivered by President Buhari while addressing world leaders on Friday.

“Mr President is going to be addressing the world,” he said. “So, what we will see from this is Nigeria’s vision, Mr president’s global vision on key issues of priority like development, climate change, security, women empowerment, good governance, anti-corruption, illicit financial flows, and restitution.”

While Nigeria hopes for a great outing as the general debates begin on Tuesday, President Buhari has been engaging top government officials in strategic meetings.

Meanwhile, Channels Television correspondent reported that a protest erupted in Manhattan, close to the United Nations Headquarters where the session is taking place.

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala in New York, the United States.

 

Two groups of Nigerians in diaspora bore their minds on the state of the nation, both having opposing views about the unity of the country.

Although protests such as this have been reported at conferences like this in the past, what seems to resonate for the two parties is tackling the nation’s challenges and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the coming years.

The theme for this year’s UNGA is, ‘Building Resilience Through Hope – To Recover from COVID-19, Rebuild Sustainably, Respond to the Needs of the Planet, Respect the Rights of People and Revitalise the United Nations’.

While in the U.S., the President and members of the delegation will partake in other events such as the high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, themed ‘Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent’.

He is expected back in the country on September 26.

Okonjo-Iweala, Biden Listed Among Time’s 100 Most Influential People

A file photo of the WTO DG, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been named in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2021. 

Okonjo-Iweala made the list  – released on Wednesday – alongside US President Joe Biden, Angelique Kidjo, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan.

The list recognises “people whose ideas, example, talent, or discoveries transform the world we live in”.

She was named in the leaders category alongside US Vice President, Kamala Harris; Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Others who also made Time’s list include Naomi Osaka, Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and Elon Musk.

READ ALSO: WTO Working To Boost Vaccine Production In Africa – Okonjo-Iweala

Photo: Nhu Xuan Hua for TIME

 

“As we face a constant barrage of vaccine misinformation, bureaucratic slowdowns across both government and industry, and the rise of variants that underscore the urgency of the situation, Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that to end the pandemic, we must work together to equip every nation with equitable vaccine access,” Prince Harry and Meghan wrote about Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance. 

“Our conversations with her have been as informative as they are energizing. This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms.”

The couple explained that with about a quarter of the world vaccinated against COVID-19 and the globe experiencing fragility at the moment, achieving vaccine equity is a “global duty of compassion for one another.

“Our hope is that guided by strong leaders like Ngozi, we can get there soon.”

Okonjo-Iwela, who hails from Delta State, served as Nigeria’s finance minister, first under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government – from 2003 to 2006 – and later in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration between 2011-2015

Earlier in the year – March – she emerged as the first woman and African to lead the WTO, a landmark development that has continued to earn her accolades globally. 

 

 

WTO DG Okonjo-Iweala Meets With President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari receives Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the State House in Abuja on March 15, 2021.

 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday met with President Muhammadu Buhari.

She was led to the meeting with the President by his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, in company with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, as well as the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, was also among those who attended the meeting.

The Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, also announced her arrival at the Presidential Villa in a tweet.

 

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was nominated as Nigeria’s candidate to lead the WTO by President Buhari in June 2020.

She emerged as the first woman and first African to lead the international body in February 2021, while her term began on March 1 and would last until the next four years.

The term, which is renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

Highpoints of the meeting are captured in the pictures below:

 

Previous Meetings

Before the meeting with President Buhari, Okonjo-Iweala had held separate discussions with the two ministers.

In her remarks, the WTO chief promised that the organisation would support Nigeria with capacity building and entrepreneurial products, especially at a time when the country has to diversify from oil.

She added that the organisation would work with other international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to help Nigeria solve its deficits which she said were affecting its infrastructure.

Okonjo-Iweala, who arrived in Nigeria on Saturday in her first visit to the country since she assumed office as the director-general of the global body, said she felt excited about her homecoming.

She stated that the WTO was also set to support job creation among youths and encourage women entrepreneurs.

According to the former Minister of Finance, the organisation is already negotiating several agreements on e-commerce.

Mr Adebayo also shared photos of the meeting with the WTO chief on Twitter.

Okonjo-Iweala’s Visit To Nigeria As WTO Director-General In Photos

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala visits Nigeria on March 13, 2021 – the first since she took over the WTO leadership. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Saturday visited Nigeria for the first since she assumed office.

She was welcomed to the country by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, and other government officials in Abuja.

Okonjo-Iweala told reporters that her visit to Nigeria was to show appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for the support accorded her.

She said she was also in the country for discussions on how Nigeria can leverage her position to benefit from trans-national trade, among others.

The highlights of her visit her captured in the pictures below:

Okonjo-Iweala Makes First Visit To Nigeria As WTO Director-General

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is welcomed by some government officials shortly after arriving in Nigeria on March 13, 2021. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has made her first visit to Nigeria since she assumed office.

She was received upon her arrival in the country on Saturday by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo.

Okonjo-Iweala told reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital that her visit to Nigeria was to show appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for the support accorded her.

She also hinted that discussion on how Nigeria can leverage her position to benefit from trans-national trade formed part of her visit to the country.

In this photo taken on March 13, 2021, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is seen with a girl and others shortly after arriving in Nigeria. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

Okonjo-Iweala’s visit to Nigeria comes about a month after she was confirmed as the Director-General of the global trade organisation.

As the first woman and first African to lead the international body, her term began on March 1 and would last until the next four years.

The term, which is renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

In the journey to become the director-general of the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala had the backing of the majority of the member-countries of the organisation.

She, however, vied for the job with the Republic of Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, who enjoyed the support of former United States President Donald Trump to become the WTO DG.

The Korean minister later announced on February 5 that she was abandoning her bid to lead the international trade body, leading to Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as the sole candidate for the job.

Following the withdrawal, the U.S. government through its Trade Representative expressed its “strong support” for the candidacy of Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the WTO.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was nominated as Nigeria’s candidate to lead the WTO by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2020.

She is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert who has a 25-year career at the World Bank, scaling the ranks to the second top position of Managing Director, Operations.

The Delta State-born economist served two terms as the minister of finance under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan respectively.

See more photos of Okonjo-Iweala’s visit to Nigeria below:

‘The Headline Was Inappropriate,’ Swiss Newspaper Apologises Over Racist Remark On Okonjo-Iweala

A file photo of WTO DG Ngozi Okono-Iweala.

 

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday received an apology from a Swiss newspaper over a headline which dismissed her experience as an economist and Nigerian politician.

The Swiss newspaper in the headline of an article published on February 9 said ‘This grandmother will be the new chief of the World Trade Organisation.’

This sparked an outcry from many who described the headline as ‘racist and sexist.’

The newspaper later apologised in a communique describing the headline as inappropriate.

“In our editorial office, we gave the article about the new head of the World Trade Organisation the headline >>This grandmother will be the new chief of the World Trade Organisation.

“This headline was inappropriate and unsuitable. The title sparked angry reactions from readers. We apologise for this editorial mistake,” Samuel Schumacher, Foreign Editor-In-Chief az Nordweatschweiz/Schweiz am Wochenende said.

Iweala, the first female and first African to lead the WTO in her Tweet on Monday accepted the apology and said it is important and timely they apologised.

“I’m thankful to all my sisters, UN Women Leaders and the 124 Ambassadors in Geneva who signed the petition on calling out the racist & sexist remarks in this newspaper. It is important & timely that they’ve apologized.

“It is important & timely that they’ve apologised,” Okonjo-Iweala said in a tweet.

 

The development economist took over as the new WTO chief on Monday after a long, high-powered career serving as minister of finance and foreign affairs in  Nigeria and 25 years at the World Bank.

‘Ready To Go’: Okonjo-Iweala Says As She Takes WTO Reins

New Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala removes her face mask as she arrives at the WTO headquarters to take office on March 1, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP / POOL

 

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has officially resumed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

As she took up the new role on Monday, the former Nigerian finance and foreign minister said she was eager to get straight to work as the first woman and first African to lead the beleaguered World Trade Organization.

“I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do,” Iweala said as she arrived for her first day on the job in Geneva.

“I feel ready to go.”

Hopes abound that the 66-year-old will be able to help the WTO address a range of towering challenges, including navigating through the global economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.

“The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralysed and moribund,” she told AFP a day after her nomination last month.

 

 

Known as Dr. Ngozi, she is taking the helm after the WTO was left adrift for six months following the sudden departure of Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo last August, a year ahead of schedule.

Following a lengthy selection process, Ngozi, a development economist who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was finally anointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.

From an initial eight candidates, Ngozi was the clear favourite among the last two standing in November. However, her appointment was delayed by former US president Donald Trump blocking her nomination.

The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.

 

In At The Deep End

Ngozi is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of the WTO’s General Council.

“I am hoping to be able to listen in and see what delegations have to say, what ambassadors have to say, about the key issues,” she told journalists about her expectations for her first day.

Delegates are expected to agree that the organisation’s next ministerial conference, which had been scheduled for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.

Questions remain as to whether the new WTO chief, considered a strong-willed trailblazer, will be able to mould the organisation in her image before then.

While some observers voice hope that Ngozi will inject much-needed energy, others stress she has little wiggle room to make dramatic changes, given that WTO decisions are made by member states — and only when they can reach consensus.

Ngozi has said she is keen to push long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line in time for the ministerial conference, but with negotiations dragging on, that could be a tough sell.

And in the midst of a global economic crisis, she has plenty of other challenges on her plate.

She has voiced particular concern about growing protectionism and nationalism during the coronavirus crisis and insists that trade barriers must be lowered to help the world recover.

 

New Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (C) poses for pictures with WTO Deputy Directors-General Alan Wolff (L) and Karl Brauner upon her arrival at the WTO headquarters to take office on March 1, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP / POOL

 

Vaccines IP Wrangle

Among the issues to be discussed Monday is a controversial push for the WTO to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.

Dozens of nations say this would help boost production and access and would rein in the pandemic sooner, but the notion has been fiercely rejected by pharmaceutical giants and the countries that host them.

Ngozi chaired the Gavi vaccine alliance before running for the WTO and has made tackling the pandemic one of her priorities.

In a likely bid to avoid a row on day one, Ngozi has called for flexibility, encouraging voluntary licensing agreements, such as the one agreed between AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India, whereby the SII factory manufactures the pharmaceutical giant’s Covid-19 vaccines.

The Ottawa Group, which brings together the EU and 12 countries including Brazil, Canada and Switzerland, will meanwhile demand that countries commit not to hindering the flow of medical goods during the pandemic, and removing customs duties on those considered essential.

Another daunting challenge facing the new director-general will be following through on her vow to breathe life back into the appeals branch of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

The Appellate Body, sometimes called the supreme court of world trade, ground to a halt in December 2019 after years of relentless US opposition.

The United States, along with European countries and Canada, also want an overhaul at the WTO, believing it has not responded correctly to the trade distortions caused by China.

Tuesday Update: Okonjo-Iweala, Security Meetings And COVID-19 Vaccines

 

Good morning.

We are reporting on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s landmark achievement, a series of security meetings to deescalate violence across the country, and Nigeria’s continued hunt for COVID-19 vaccines.

 


Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poses at her home in Potomac, Maryland, near Washington DC, minutes before she was confirmed as the first woman and first African leader of the beleaguered World Trade Organization,on February 15, 2021. Eric BARADAT / AFP
Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poses at her home in Potomac, Maryland, near Washington DC, minutes before she was confirmed as the first woman and first African leader of the beleaguered World Trade Organization, on February 15, 2021. Eric BARADAT / AFP

Okonjo-Iweala Makes History

Nigeria’s ex-Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been confirmed by the World Trade Organisation as its next Director-General. The news sent Nigerians into a celebration frenzy. The word ‘Congratulations ma’ was high on Twitter’s trends list late Monday.

She becomes the first African and first woman to hold the WTO top job. This report examines how she did it.

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said she was “honoured” to have been selected and was determined to make the WTO stronger as the world economy struggles to recover from a slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Accolades: President Muhammadu Buhari said he was confident she will excel in her new position. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and many others also had good things to say about the former World Bank Executive.

Quote: “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,” Atiku Abubakar said. “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.”

Perspective: “She is an institution builder,” Prof Ken Ife, a Development Economist, said on News @ 10. “Africa is going to benefit from her selection.”


A map of Oyo, a state in south-west Nigeria.

Northern Governors Converge In Oyo

As part of efforts to resolve last week’s ethnic clash at Shasha market in Ibadan, four Northern Governors – Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), and Abubakar Bello (Niger) – met with Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, in Oyo state.

Governor Makinde is expected to inaugurate a judicial panel of inquiry into the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the immediate deployment of police intervention and stabilisation forces to the state.

Dig Deeper: Former police chief, Fatai Owoseni, believes the Shasha market crisis is symbolic of deep-seated discontents that must be comprehensively addressed urgently.

Related: North-West Governors met with the Service Chiefs in Kaduna over the increasing insecurity in the zone and recent ethnic conflicts in the South-West.  Similar meetings are expected to take place with Governors from the other five zones that make up Nigeria.

Extra: The IGP has flagged off Operation Puff Adder 2, which is aimed at reinforcing the ongoing fight against banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, and other violent crimes across the country.


A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP
A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

Hunt for Vaccines Continues

Nigeria is currently reviewing different COVID-19 vaccines for use in the country, the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, said on Monday.

The vaccines include China’s Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V, and India’s Covishield. Covaxin, also manufactured in India, is being considered too.

“It is important to stress that all COVID-19 vaccines carry a certain amount of risk and any vaccines not approved by the Federal Ministry of Health through its Agencies cannot be used in Nigeria,” the Minister said.

It is not yet clear when Nigeria will receive its first batch of vaccines despite securing millions of doses via the WHO-backed Covax and an African Union initiative.

Globally, there is a shortage of vaccines as demand continues to spike. And since Nigeria doesn’t have the local capacity to manufacture the jabs, it will have no option but to wait.

Exclusive: The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, spoke to Ladi Akeredolu-Ale on how COVID-19 variants will affect the country’s fight against the pandemic.

NCDC: Nigeria reported 574 new cases and eight deaths from the virus on Monday, the disease control agency said.

Related: After new Ebola cases were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea recently, Nigeria has been put on alert, Dr. Osagie said on Monday.


What else is happening?

Justice: An Imo High Court has nullified the impeachment of former Deputy Governor of Imo State, Jude Agbaso. He was impeached on March 28, during the Rochas Okorocha administration.

Akeredolu: The Ondo State Governor slammed his Bauchi counterpart, Bala Mohammed, for sympathizing with armed herdsmen. “How will a governor in this country today come out and say people should be allowed to carry arms when it is illegal?” Akeredolu queried.

Lekki Toll Gate: As it gears for a reopening of the facility, the Lekki Concession Company said there will be no immediate imposition of toll fees.

Port Harcourt: A man has been sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of a Jumia delivery agent in March 2017.

APC: Lai Mohammed has called for the cancellation of the ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise, saying it is marred by irregularities.

China: The Asian giant last year overtook the United States as the EU’s biggest trading partner, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said on Monday.

Myanmar: Anti–coup protests have continued as military authorities restrict Internet access and deploy more troops to crackdown on dissent.


And that’s the briefing for this morning. See you tomorrow.

P.S: Obinwanne Okeke, the Forbes-endorsed millionaire, is set to be sentenced in a US court on Tuesday for multiple counts of wire fraud.

 

 

WTO: Okonjo-Iweala Has Brought Honour To Nigeria, Africa – Lawan

In this file photo taken on September 19, 2016 former Finance Minster of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala looks on during the Opening Plenary Session: "Partnering for Global Prosperity," at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Bryan R. Smith / AFP
File photo of former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Credit: Bryan R. Smith / AFP

 

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has congratulated former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her emergence as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, saying she has brought more honour to Nigeria and Africa.

Lawan in a statement issued on Monday by his spokesman, Ola Awoniyi, also congratulated “Nigeria on the latest feat of its great daughter on the international stage.”

“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,” Lawan was quoted as saying.

The Senate President applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for standing behind her candidacy in getting the WTO top job.

He also acknowledged Okonjo-Iweala’s sterling credentials and her ultimate triumph in the prolonged contest for the very important position.

Lawan 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.”

According to the Senate President, her task has been made even more onerous by the havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked on economies across the world.

He also prayed that the Almighty God would imbue her with good health and wisdom to succeed in the task.

Okonjo-Iweala Will Excel In Her New Position As DG WTO – Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari says he has no doubt that Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will excel in her new position as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Following the confirmation of her appointment on Monday, President Buhari on behalf of the Federal Government and all Nigerians, warmly felicitated with Dr. Okonjo-Iweala on her election which he says is bringing joy and more honour to the country.

“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,” the President stated.

According to a statement by his special media aide, the president affirmed 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 joined the family, friends, and colleagues in wishing Dr. Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavor.

on Monday, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to lead the international trade body. Her term is scheduled to start on March 1.

The term, which is renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

“This is a very significant moment for the WTO,” 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.

“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.

“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.”

Quoted in a WTO statement, 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,” she said.

“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.”

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee had been the only other remaining contender for the post but pulled out when it became clear that new US President Joe Biden was swinging firmly behind Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

The organisation has been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule.

The process of picking one of eight candidates to succeed him had been expected to wrap up by November, but the administration of former US President Donald Trump blocked the consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala.

‘Reform candidate’

Okonjo-Iweala, who boasted US, EU and African backing, was not at the WTO’s Geneva headquarters for Monday’s meeting but was scheduled to hold an online press conference after its conclusion.

She will take over an organisation mired in multiple crises and struggling to help member states navigate the severe global economic slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Okonjo-Iweala argued during the race that she was best placed out of the eight candidates for the post to steer the WTO through the crises, calling herself a reform candidate.

She warned that growing protectionism and nationalism had been spurred on by the pandemic and insisted barriers needed to be lowered to help the world recover.

Even before Covid-19 battered the global economy, the WTO was weighed down by stalled trade talks and struggled to curb trade tensions between the United States and China.

The WTO also faced relentless attacks from Washington under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. Among other things, Trump brought the WTO’s dispute settlement appeal system to a grinding halt in late 2019.

‘Boldness, courage’

Okonjo-Iweala has said her priorities include getting long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life back into WTO’s Appellate Body.

Twice Nigeria’s finance minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint in 2006, Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a trailblazer in her homeland.

She has brushed off claims she lacks experience as a trade minister or negotiator.

She has portrayed herself as a champion against Nigeria’s rampant corruption — saying her own mother was even kidnapped over her attempts to tackle the scourge.

But her critics argue she should have done more to tackle it while in power.

A development economist by training with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Okonjo-Iweala has also had a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two.

She is on the Twitter board of directors and chaired Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Trailblazer, History Maker And Beloved Nigerian Daughter

A file photo of former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okono-Iweala.

 

Nigeria’s former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been described as a trailblazer.

The 66-year-old made more history on Monday when she was appointed as the first African and woman to head the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Aside from her time in public office, the development economist also spent a quarter-century at the World Bank — rising to be managing director and running for the top role in 2012.

“I think she has delivered, whether in Nigeria or in other countries where she worked,” Idayat Hassan of the Centre for Democracy and Development Research and Advocacy Group told AFP.

Born in 1954 in Ogwashi Ukwu, in Delta State, western Nigeria, her father is a traditional ruler. She spent much of her life in the United States, graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard, where she sent her four children.

“She is not just liked in Nigeria, she is loved, because she is a symbol, and people are gunning for her because of what she represents for womanhood,” said Hassan.

– ‘She kept quiet’ –
Not everyone agrees her track record is impeccable.

“Okonjo-Iweala may have done some box-checking technocratic transparency reforms in her ministry but the fact is, nearly a billion dollars a month were going missing from oil revenues when she was finance minister,” said Sarah Chayes, author of “Thieves of State”, a book about corruption.

“I think it’s a shame she is even being considered for the role,” Chayes said in an interview last year.

“There is an appetite for this kind of good news story at a time when diversity issues are paramount, being female and black doesn’t hurt.”

The former minister has portrayed herself as a champion against Nigeria’s rampant corruption — and says her own mother was even kidnapped over her attempts to tackle the scourge.

But critics insist she should have done more to stop it while in power.

“At the very least, she had the opportunity to resign from office and expose the corruption,” said Olanrewaju Suraju, from the Human and Environmental Development Agenda campaign group.

“Rather, she kept quiet and allowed high-level corruption to fester under the regime, only to complain after leaving office.”

– ‘Boldness, courage’ –
Okonjo-Iweala has also brushed off claims she lacks experience as a trade minister or negotiator.

“I’ve been doing that all my life, working on trade policy issues,” she said during a webinar organised by Chatham House in July.

“Most of all,” she said, the choice for Director-General should go beyond technical skills, “you need boldness, courage”.

She was recently named the African Union’s special envoy to mobilise international support for the continent’s efforts to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Okonjo-Iweala has warned that growing protectionism and nationalism have been spurred on by the crisis and insists barriers need to be lowered to help the world recover.

“One way to ensure the adequate supply and equitable distribution of vaccines is to remove some of the barriers created by intellectual property and technology transfer laws,” she wrote in April in Foreign Affairs magazine.

WTO: Nigeria, Africa Happy With US Endorsement Of Okonjo-Iweala – Buhari

A photo combination of Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (R) and President Muhammadu Buhari (L).

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said Nigeria and Africa are happy with the US endorsement of ex-Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

The United States, under the administration of ex-President Donald Trump, had objected to Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy for the WTO top job.

Instead, Trump had preferred South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, saying she got the requisite experience to lead the organisation.

However, the US made a U-turn by backing the ex-Vice President of the World Bank, thus paving the way for her to be the first woman and African to emerge as the WTO boss.

READ ALSO: US Finally Backs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala To Lead WTO

President Buhari said he welcomed the pronouncement of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, signifying withdrawal of the country’s objection to Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as WTO DG.

“Nigeria and the entire African continent are happy about this new U.S position, which signifies a shift and an important turnaround in the relations between our continent and the United States under the Biden administration,” Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu.

“We certainly welcome the decision of the new U.S administration to remove the last obstacle in the path of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to becoming the first female and the first person of African descent to lead the organization.

“Today, we see that the United States stands with Nigeria and Africa with the acceptance of our widely respected citizen, Okonjo-Iweala to lead the WTO. We look forward to working very closely with the new U.S administration on this and all issues of common interests, especially in such areas as accelerated economic growth, fight against terrorism and deepening progress on development issues.”