From Segun Amure, (The New Diplomat’s Abuja Bureau)
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made history on Monday, becoming the first African and woman to head the World Trade Organization (WTO) since inception.
However, Okonjo-Iweala’s success wasn’t mere happenstance. Her rise to global stardom has been steady throughout the past decades as a look into Okonjo-Iweala’s tailor-made credentials for the WTO Director-General position revealed much about a woman who has pursued hardwork and excellence with grit.
‘The highlights of her journey to success go thus:’
The new WTO DG was born on the 13 June, 1954 to the family of Professor Chukwuka Okonjo who was an Obi from the royal family of Ogwashi-Ukwu in Delta State.
Young Okonjo-Iweala had her formal education at Queen’s School, Enugu, St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan, and the International School Ibadan.
In 1973, Okonjo-Iweala arrived in the United States to study Economics at Harvard University.
Upon the completion of her First Degree, she graduated magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976.
In 1981, Okonjo-Iweala earned her PhD in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later joined the World Bank, rising through the rank to become No.2 at the global financial institution.
In 2003, Okonjo-Iweala returned to Nigeria following her appointment by Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo as the first female Finance Minister in the country.
Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
‘Okonjo Iweala’s Achievements as Nigeria’s finance Minister’
In her days as the Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala’s outstanding traits distinguished her. Chief among her achievements are Paris Club negotiations that led to the wiping out of US$30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, and outright cancellation of US$18 billion.
Establishment of ‘The Excess Crude Account’ which helped to reduce macroeconomic volatility.
Monthly publication of states financial allocation from the Federal Government to make the government more transparent to its citizens.
Establishment of electronic financial management platform called The Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) among others.
Okonjo-Iweala had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington DC as a development economist, rising to the position of Managing Director, Operations.
As Managing Director of World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala iniated several programmes targeted at low-income countries during the 2008–2009 food crises, and later the global economic meltdown.
In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was re-appointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Her legacy includes strengthening the country’s public financial systems and stimulating the housing sector with the establishment of the Mortgage Refinance Corporation (NMRC).
She also empowered women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN); a gender-responsive budgeting system, and the highly acclaimed Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN); to support entrepreneurs that created thousands of jobs.
Since 2019, Okonjo-Iweala has been part of UNESCO’s International Commission on the Futures of Education, chaired by Sahle-Work Zewde.
She’s on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health).
In 2020, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges.
Following the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed by the African Union as special envoy to solicit international support and help the continent deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.
‘Okonjo-Iweala and WTO Emergence’
In June 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country’s candidate for the Director-General position of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Okonjo-Iweala advanced to the election’s final round, eventually competing with Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s Trade Minister.
In October 27, Okonjo-Iweala secured the majority support from WTO’s 164 member-states needed to emerge as the head of the global trade body, including an unalloyed support from the European Union. However, that was stalled by the U.S opposition to her bid under President Donald Trump’s administration.
In February 2021, Okonjo-Iweala’s main opponent, Myung-hee withdrew her candidacy thus making the former Nigerian minister the only candidate for the Director-General position. Hours after her withdrawal, Joe Biden’s America threw its weight behind Okonjo-Iweala.
On 15 February, she was formally announced as the first woman and first African to head the position since the inception of WTO during the body’s General Council meeting.
The 67-year-old Delta-born has received sundry awards to her credit. Chief among them are-
2020 –African of the year, Forbes Africa.
2017 Vanguard Award, Howard University
2017 – Women’s Economic Empowerment Award, WEConnect International 
2017 – Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award, Aspen Institute 
2016 – Power with Purpose Award, Devex Development Communications Network
2016 – Global Fairness Award, Global Fairness Initiative.
Also, the Economic don, has received honorary degrees from 14 local and international universities in the world.
University of Pennsylvania (2013), Yale University (2015), Amherst College (2009) Trinity College, Dublin (2007), Brown University (2006), Colby College (2007), Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica, Abia State University, Delta State University, Abraka , Oduduwa University, Babcock University, University of Port Harcourt, Calabar, and Obafemi Awolowo university.