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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made history

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The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) first woman and first African director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, started work on 1st of March 2021 after her official appointment on February 15 when the General Council agreed by consensus to select her as the organization’s seventh Director-General.

Her appointment on February 15 filled the hearts of so many with joy, admiration and the start of something as history was made, A first female and first African director-general!

Her appointment gave rise to a big and powerful trend on twitter, #BeLikeNgoziChallenge, that had kids, women and men dressing up exactly like her. Copying her glasses, the way she ties her head scarf, her native attire and her picture poses, it was a perfect way to celebrate In Nigeria, across Africa and beyond.

A look into her career

Before becoming director-general of The World Trade Organization’s (WTO), she served twice as Nigeria’s first female Finance Minister (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively and also as first female Minister of Foreign Affairs where she served for 2 months and returned to the World Bank as a Managing Director in December 2007.

Again in 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was re-appointed as Minister of Finance in Nigeria by the then president, Goodluck Jonathan. Between shuffling back and forth with position in the world bank and the Nigerian government, she was able to empower women and youth with the Growing Girls and Women in Nigeria Programme (GWIN), and a Youth Enterprise with Innovation programme (YouWIN) to help support entrepreneurs. These innovations not only gave Nigerian youth hope but created thousands of jobs

Later, between (2006–2009), Okonjo-Iweala served on the Growth Commission led by Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Spence, and the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2012–2013). In 2012, she would have become the World bank first female president, she ran against Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim

After leaving government, Okonjo-Iweala was a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015–2016). In January 2016, she was appointed the Chair-elect of the Board of Gavi which is now helping to distribute coronavirus vaccines globally.

she is the founder of Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, NOI-Polls She also founded the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (C-SEA), a development research think tank based in Abuja.

Since 2019, she has been part of UNESCO’s International Commission on the Futures of Education and also been serving on the High-Level Council on Leadership & Management for Development of the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health) same year.

In 2020, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appointed her to an external advisory group to provide input on policy challenges. Also same year, she was appointed by the African Union (AU) as special envoy to solicit international support to help the continent deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

she spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist.

In June 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria nominated Okonjo-Iweala as the country’s candidate to be director-general of the World Trade Organization which she eventually won and will run until August 2025 (renewable)

In early 2021, Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as co-chair, of the High-Level Independent Panel (HLIP) on financing the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response, which had been established by the G20.

As she resumed her office as the director-general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala she had this to say “I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do, I feel ready to go “.

Her first day consisted of meeting staffers and attending her first meeting of the General Council, made up of top envoys from the trade body’s 164 member states. The closed-door council meeting was largely held by videoconference because of measures aimed to fight the pandemic. Her first official tweet was appreciating those who called out a newspaper racist and sexist remarks.

One of her first tasks in office will be to nominate four new deputy directors to help recharge the organization’s negotiating mechanism.

Her Unique style of dressing

Unlike the formal mode of dressing which we as a country have copied from foreigners, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala made it a statement and  undoubtedly rocks our African prints anywhere and everytime. Her openly and undisguised love for our native wear makes her appear with whomever on African prints. It’s a proud thing to behold.

She has totally embraced the Nigerian dressing culture “Ankara fabrics” fllowed by her headgear which she ties in a fabulous yet striking manner. have it on record that on her first day at one of the most important jobs, she was dressed in Ankara and her signature headgear.

It makes me question why we have reduced our prints for Fridays, occasions, services and celebrations instead of an everyday wear.

Honorary degrees

Brown University (2006)

Trinity College, Dublin (2007)

Colby College (2007)

Amherst College (2009)

University of Pennsylvania (2013)

Yale University (2015)

Tel Aviv University (2019)

Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica

Abia State University,

Delta State University,

Oduduwa University,

Babcock University,

Universities of Port Harcourt, Calabar,

Obafemi Awolowo university

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