Yes, it is official. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the new Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
But who is this Nigerian?
The daughter of Professor Chukwuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwashi-Ukwu in Delta State, South-South Nigeria started her education in Queen’s School, Enugu. She Moved to St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan and then the International School Ibadan. In 1973 she arrived in the US and graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University in 1976. She earned a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT in 1981.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years at the World Bank, rising to the position of Managing Director. She had oversight responsibility for the bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.
She had two stints as Finance Minister in Nigeria. Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Okonjo-Iweala negotiated with the Paris Club for debt relief for Nigeria, where an $18 billion was outrightly cancelled.
The Excess Crude Account, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) were among some of her innovations.
In 2011, the then President, Goodluck Jonathan asked her to continue managing the nation’s finances. Her Sovereign Wealth Fund intitiative was opposed by most state governors, even though it was an idea that would have cushioned the nation’s economy from external market forces.
The financial expert sits on the boards of some notable private institutions such as Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
The seventh Director General of the World Trade Organisation has her work cut out for her. Mostly considering that commerce has moved online in many parts of the world, and with the cold war between the United States and China, it is truly time to try something else.