Nigerian Economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Becomes First Black Woman to Head the World Trade Organization
Photo Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

Nigerian Economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Becomes First Black Woman to Head the World Trade Organization

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is blazing a historic path in world economics as the first Black woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) — a first after South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee dropped out of the race last week, CNN reports.

In a televised briefing, Myung-hee explained that her decision to step down was determined after “close consultation” with the U.S., stating that the WTO had been “without a leader for too long.”

The organization has been operating without a leader since last August after Roberto Azevêdo stepped down from his position just a year earlier than his term was expected to end.

Okonjo-Iweala — an economist of 25 years and former finance minister of Nigeria — has so far received much support from several WTO members, including the European Union, China, Japan and Australia.

During the Trump Administration, the U.S. was leaning toward favoring Myung-hee for the position. While there’s been an escalating trade fight between the U.S. and China, Okonjo-Iweala is now seemingly stepping in to help resolve these issues.

Back in August, Okonjo-Iweala told CNN that the trade game would play a pivotal role in the road to recovery following the coronavirus pandemic and how important it was for the WTO to select a new leader.

“The WTO needs a leader at this time. It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider, someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in,” she shared in an interview.

Okonjo-Iweala spent her years of financial experience working at the World Bank as a development economist, where she was able to climb the ranks to become a managing director.

Additionally, she most recently chaired the board of Gavi, which is helping to distribute coronavirus vaccines worldwide, before stepping down following her term this past December.

CNN shares that since the selection of a new leader for the organization requires a consensus among all WTO members, Okonjo-Iweala’s formal selection may be on hold until after the Biden Administration appoints a new trade representative.

All in all, Okonjo-Iweala still achieved a remarkable accomplishment and just in time to continue this month’s celebration of Black history.