Monday (February 15th): Who runs the world?

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala 

Name? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala 

Westphalian identity? Nigerian

Age? 66

Why is she in the news? Okonjo-Iweala is set to be named Director General of the WTO, becoming the first woman and the first African to lead the institution.

Why do we care? Honestly, we’re fans of Okonjo-Iweala. She held prominent positions such as Nigerian finance minister and foreign affairs minister, managing director of the World Bank and chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. But more than experience, Okonjo-Iweala has well-deserved confidence: “I’m a fighter; I’m very focused on what I’m doing, and relentless in what I want to achieve, almost to a fault. If you get in my way you get kicked.” 

Why should you care? With the world-trading system at a make-or-break moment, the world needs someone with Okonjo-Iweala’s expertise and determination to save the sinking ship that is the WTO. In doing so, the institution will once again be able to mediate trade negotiations, oversee vaccine distribution, and potentially reform the way we do trade from the inside out. So on our How much should you care scale, this gets a 7/10. 

Who else cares? The global south. Sure there have been director general’s from developing countries before (Brazil and Thailand to be exact), but they had far less background in assisting the global south outside their own countries.. Okonjo-Iweala, on the other hand, has had practice handling economic challenges for developing economies both at the national level in Nigeria and at the global level in the World Bank and Gavi.

Any further comments? Just one: Women are ruling the world of economics and trade. With Kristalina Georgieva at the helm of the IMF, Christine Lagarde running the European Central Bank, Ursula von der Leyen heading the European Commission, and now Okonjo-Iweala leading the WTO, the West is walking the talk of gender equality in a particularly male-dominated field. And if Covid19 has shown us anything, it’s that women in charge get stuff done.

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator