By Ruth Osime
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian-American economist and international development expert. She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity (ARC). On 15 February 2021, she was appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
Her term will begin on 1st March 2021, when she will become the first woman and the first African to hold the office.To say Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a woman of many firsts is putting it mildly because over the years, she has shattered one glass ceiling after the other. Previously, Dr Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, 2011-2015, and briefly Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s daring stand to go against the grain and fight corruption as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, earned her the moniker “Okonjo Wahala”…which means Okonjo “Trouble” in our local parlance.
Undeterred, she forged on in her bid to do what she was employed to do and right the wrongs within her ministry. A hearculean feat which she wrote about after her tenure ended. Now she has added another big feather to her already full ‘fascinator’ (in Ngozi’s case, the word ‘cap’ is simply too simple a word to use with this coin phrase)! After a long haul of campaigning even with the writing already on the wall, her main rival for the seat of DG of WTO, South Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-Hee withdrew her race succumbing to popular demand leaving the sole candidate to cinch the position making NOI not just the first woman to be the new Director-General of the World Trade Organization but also the first African, to lead the institution.
If her track record is anything to go by, Ngozi will no doubt shake things up and hold power to account as is her usual stand. Needless to say, Okonjo-lweala’s intimidating profile makes her more than worthy of the job as she has been listed as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015), the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2014), the Top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy, 2011 and 2012), the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World (Forbes, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), the Top 3 Most Powerful Women in Africa (Forbes, 2012), the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Africa (Forbes, 2011), the Top 100 Women in the World (The Guardian, 2011), the Top 150 Women in the World (Newsweek, 2011), and the Top 100 most inspiring people in the World Delivering for Girls and Women (Women Deliver, 2011).We watch eagerly and expectedly as this woman of substance undoubtedly makes her mark in the sands of time!