Meet the first Black woman set to lead WTO

“She is going to rock the place.” That’s how Christine Lagarde, the first woman president of the European Central Bank, predicted the future of the World Trade Organization under Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala a few months back.

On February 15, Nigeria-born Okonjo-Iweala created history by becoming the first woman and the first African to lead the Geneva-based global trade governing body founded in 1995. All of her five predecessors are men.

Before her two terms as Nigerian finance minister, she worked in different roles as a development economist at the World Bank for 25 years.

Harvard-educated, she stepped down as board chair at GAVI, a global vaccine alliance that promotes equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, in December 2020. She is also on the board of social media giant Twitter. She became a U.S. citizen in 2019.

In September, she said, “The WTO’s rules are not up to date as it concerns what I would call 21st-century issues.”

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