The news of the confirmation of Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organization [WTO] was received by the LCCI with great excitement. There is no question that it is an appointment that is very well-deserved having regard to her pedigree, impeccable credentials, intellectual depth, and robust experience. This is a trail blazing appointment. She is the first African, and the first woman to occupy the exalted position of WTO Director General.
As Finance Minister, she demonstrated an extraordinary courage and commitment to reforms in the promotion of transparency and accountability, in the management of public finance amid overwhelming odds. She will no doubt bring these sterling qualities to bear on this position. The WTO is one of the oldest multilateral global institutions with a strategic objective of promoting free and fair trade globally.
These are not the best of times for many multilateral institutions given the groundswell of economic nationalism and unilateralism in recent years. This is even more so in trade matters. But we are confident that Dr Okonjo Iweala has the capacity to manage the enormous responsibilities of an increasingly complex global trade situation.
Her appointment at a time Africa is taking an unprecedented step in deepening continental economic integration through the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement [AfCFTA] presents an opportunity of mainstreaming the African continent into global trade. AfCFTA is still in its nascent stage and needs a lot of support which the WTO is in a position to provide.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as the first female Director General of the WTO is an international role model and a leader worthy of emulation. As she said herself, “I hope it is a sign not only to women and girls in my country, BUT to women and girls worldwide that the world is ready, and women can do it.” As Dr. Okonjo Iweala prepares to assume duty “to rejuvenate and reform the WTO to be the organisation it needs to be for the 21st century”, we wish her great success during her tenure. We have great hopes that world trade will become a more equitable system under her leadership and Africa will benefit as a result.
Once again, on behalf of the Council and Members of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry I congratulate Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala on her appointment as the Director General of the World Trade Organization.
Mrs Toki Mabogunje
Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry