A New Leader at the WTO

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African, has been confirmed as the new leader of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The selection of a new leader requires all WTO members to agree and the WTO’s 164 members unanimously selected her to lead the organization.

Ms. Okongo-Iweala’s accomplishments, both personal and professional, are impressive.

She was cared for by her grandmother in Nigeria while her parents were studying abroad and her mother was later kidnapped for ransom, unfortunately a common occurrence in Nigeria. Her mother was released after 5 days.

Ms. Okongo-Iweala went on to study at Harvard and in 1981 earned a PhD. She is the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, which, since 2000 has immunised 580 million children globally and saved 8 million lives. She has stated that trade will play an important role in the world’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Her biography is listed below and the IFCBA, especially members in Africa, joins other trade associations in offering our congratulations to Ms. Okonjo-Iweala and wishing her every success in her exciting new role.


  • Born 1954 in Nigeria

  • Studied at Harvard 1973-76 and earned a PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1981

  • Spent 25 years at the World Bank, rising to the No.2 position as managing director (2007-11)

  • Twice Nigerian finance minister - 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 - and the first woman to hold the post

  • Served briefly as foreign minister in 2006, also the first woman to do so

  • Sits on the boards of Twitter, Standard Chartered Bank and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI)

  • Nominated by President Mohammadu Buhari as candidate for director-general of the WTO in June 2020