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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala set to make history at WTO

HAVING survived the murky waters of politics in Nigeria, and rising to number two at the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should have no trouble dealing with international trade negotiators in her new job at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The 66-year-old will be the first woman and the first African to occupy the position.

Despite recently taking out US citizenship, she revels in being Nigerian and is fiercely patriotic, flaunting her African identity in her African-print tailored outfits.

The Harvard-educated development economist is seen as a down-to-earth, hard worker, who said that what the WTO needed was a shake-up.

“They need something different. It cannot be business as usual for the WTO - they need someone willing to do the reforms and lead.”

During her 25 years at the World Bank, she is credited with spearheading several initiatives to assist lowincome countries, raising nearly $50B in 2010 from donors for the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.

But it is her reform agenda in Nigeria in which she takes real pride - especially the two times she served as the country’s finance minister under Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

One of her greatest achievements was leading a team which negotiated a whopping $18B debt rightoff in 2005 for the country, helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign debt rating.