How Ngozi Okonjo Iweala As WTO Director General Can Benefit Africa

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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Africa has bright and remarkable individuals. However, the brilliance of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a motivation for young girls. Her most recent achievement as top nominee for the World Trade Organization Director-General (WTO DG) only strengthens this point. Let’s go back to 1954 so that we can really get the picture! 

A Brief History of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

 Ngozi Okonjo Iweala hails from Delta State in Nigeria. She had her high school education at the Queen’s School in Enugu. She also attended St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan. Her excellent academic performance at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earned her an A.B. magna cum laude in economics and a Ph.D. in regional economics respectively.

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala broke ceilings, starting in her country Nigeria. She was appointed Finance Minister twice, from 2003-2006 and again from 2011-2015. Prior to her second appointment as Nigeria’s finance minister, she served the country as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006. Consequently, it would mark the first time a female is holding these positions in the country.

Internationally, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala enjoyed a successful 25-year career at the World Bank, serving as a development economist. Consequently, she rose to the Managing Director between 2007-2011. The Nigerian economist has earned numerous recognitions and awards. Among these is her listing in the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015), and the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME,2014).  

Africa’s Huge Trade Volume

Over the years, western countries have tried to initiate policies that will ensure the growth of Africa. However, in order to impact Africa, inspiring economic growth through trade is unnegotiable. In this regard, no one can understand African trade better than a seasoned African economist. To get the big picture, let’s first consider the volume of Africa’s trade. 

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa’s trade between 2015-2017 to the rest of the world averages at US$760 billion. The article also declares Africa and Asia as the only regions showing rising intraregional trade trends since 2008. Great right? Perhaps not! This trade figure is a joke compared to America’s $5,140 billion and Asia’s $6,801 billion to the rest of the world. Also, Afreximbank’s 2019 Trade Report points out that Africa amassed over $997.9 billion in its 2018 merchandise trade.

The growing trade figure is something every African should cheer but it is still far from the goal. Under the visionary leadership of Ngoi Okonjo Iweala, Africa should hope to double the trade volume. The starting point should be spearheading policies that will encourage African export. 

The Benefits to Africa if Ngozi Okonjo Iweala Emerges as Director-General, World Trade Organization.

Ultimately, it is good practice to give back to society! Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is well known for that. From being the main actor in the outright cancellation of Nigeria’s $18 billion debt to pushing for the improvement of the country’s macroeconomy, her efforts reverberate through the entire nation to date. Also, she has spearheaded a number of economy-improving programs, like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation Programme (YouWIN). The World Bank rated this program as very effective. 

In 2020, her appointment as a special envoy by the African Union (AU) would extend the range of her humanitarian activities. Since 2019, she has consistently provided humanitarian support working for the UNESCO’s International Commission on The Future of Education. Africa, therefore, stands to benefit a whole bunch if she becomes the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Below are possible ways Ngozi Okonjo Iweala can inspire Africa’s growth as WTO DG. 

Encourage Increase in Inter and Intra-trade in African Nations 

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala used her position in her previous organization to seek the growth of Africa. This trend will likely continue. We predict she will use her position as WTO DG to encourage intra and inter-African trade. She will be able to advise African leaders on how to maximize their trade potentials. With the right knowledge, we believe Africa can forge true economic freedom. Perhaps, this will mark the beginning of Africa beyond aids.

Promoting and Monitoring Transparency of African Trades

In addition to advising and supporting African-international trades, the DG, WTO top nominee, would bring transparency. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has a stellar record of pursuing transparency, as well as being very accountable. Becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organization would mean that African trades will now follow crystal clear procedures. Also, Africa can rely on her support to get better value for their raw materials and products.

Effective Settling of Trade Disputes

It is hard to find a business that will run for decades without dispute. This is why most organizations have a dispute resolution mechanism. As WTO DG, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala will be in the right position to help Africa settle trade disputes. This is particularly important because of the high number of trade disputes that arise due to different African policies.

America against Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Chosen as Nigeria’s candidate, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has beaten several selection processes in her ambition to serve the World Trade Organization as its seventh leader. This is amazing, but really, all that support could only come from trust and a good record. In the 19th step of this intense selection process, the WTO General Council received the Nigerian economist as the preferred candidate of the WTO DG selection panel. The new WTO chief will take over from Roberto Azevedo of Brazil.  

The only block in the path of the Nigerian candidate is the United States. Against overwhelming support, the United States opposed the nomination of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala for the top office. Premium Times explains that the WTO rules of procedure prescribe fresh considerations, as an alternative to the conflicting nomination. The council’s new considerations are set to begin on 9th November 2020, and will probably involve voting. 


The 66-year-old Nigerian economist has achieved a lot both for her country and for the world. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a mother, role model, and professional. We have no doubt about her abilities to steer the global trade organization in the right direction. However, even if she fails to get the nomination, she is already a huge inspiration to young African girls. One thing is certain, with hard work and determination, you can surpass any limit irrespective of your ethnicity or race. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter for in-depth analysis of critical African issues. 

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