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Nigeria’s Okonjo set to be the first woman and first African to head the World Trade Organisation

The prospects of the Former Nigerian Minister for Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been boosted as her main contender, Yoo Myung-hee who is the current South Korean trade minister withdraws from the race.

This decision was made public by the South Korean Ministry of trade on Friday; Yoo stated that the decision to renounce her candidature was in “close consultation” with the United States. In a statement, she assured that, “South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process.”

In response to the move seen as a very important one to aid the operation of the WTO, a spokesperson of Okonjo-Iweala “congratulates Yoo Myung-hee on her long campaign and welcomes South Korea’s commitment to rebuilding and enhancing multilateralism.” Adding that, “there is vital work ahead to do together”.

The race to make history as the first woman and the first ever African to head the World Trade Organization has been a long battle for Okonjo-Iweala; even though the Nigerian got the backing of giants such as the European Union, China, Japan and Australia, the Donald Trump led US administration strongly objected her candidature and supported the South Korean.

According to the rules of the World Trade Organization, a candidate is chosen by consensus. In effect, the initial objection from the US affected processes leading to the endorsement of a permanent candidate for the vacant position after the premature resignation of the director general, Roberto Azevêdo. The only helpful option was the withdrawal of the other candidate. 

Although all roads seem cleared for Okonjo-Iweala to head the organization, a mere resignation of her South Korean counterpart does not grant her an automatic victory. The candidate will still be presented to the 164 representatives of the WTO for consideration and endorsement.

Okonjo-Iweala has loads of experiences, both national and international. Aside from serving two terms in office as the Minister for Finance in Nigeria, she has 25 years of experience working at the World Bank as a development economist and equally went through the ranks to the position of managing director. She also sits on the Boards of African Risk Capacity, Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).

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