Nigeria-born Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was on Monday confirmed as the new leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
When she takes office on March 1, Okonjo-Iweala will be the first woman and the first African to serve as the global trade body’s director-general. The following is a profile of the new WTO head.
In 1954, Okonjo-Iweala was born in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta State, Nigeria. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University in 1976 and earned a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
From 1982 until 2003 and then from 2007 until 2011, she had a 25-year career at the World Bank with several positions. After leaving in 2003, she served as the finance minister of Nigeria from 2003 to 2006.
In 2006, Okonjo-Iweala also briefly acted as the African country’s foreign minister, the first woman to hold both positions in the country. Between 2007 and 2011, she returned to the World Bank, rising to the position of the number two at the global lender, as managing director in charge of operations.
In 2011, she was reappointed as Nigeria’s minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy. She served in the position until 2015. In 2012, Okonjo-Iweala was a candidate for president of the World Bank.
From 2016 to 2020, She chaired the board of Gavi, a public-private global health partnership with the goal of promoting immunization in poor countries. In 2020, she was appointed as African Union Special Envoy to mobilize international financial support for the fight against COVID-19 and World Health Organization Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
Currently, she also sits on the boards of Standard Chartered and Twitter, and works as an adviser to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.