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Okonjo-Iweala poised to become the first woman and African national to lead the WTO

February 12, 2021

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set is to be the first woman and first African national to head the World Trade Organization.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the 2015 Leon C. And June W. Holt Lecture on International Trade Law.Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the 2015 Leon C. And June W. Holt Lecture on International Trade Law.In 2015, she gave the Law School’s Leon C. And June W. Holt Lecture on International Trade Law created in 2007 to develop and endow a program on international issues of trade and law in the global economy and support a new generation of law students in leadership in international law.

The Law School’s Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis joins United Nations Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to write about Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership philosophy that will help her steer the WTO in a global recovery, posted on the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) wire. 


Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is the first woman to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO), making inclusion central to multilateral institutions

Rangita de Silva de Alwis
Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
Nonresident Leadership Fellow, WAPPP
Hillary Rodham Clinton Research Fellow on Gender Equity, Georgetown University

Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Executive Director, UN Women
Nonresident Leadership Fellow, WAPPP

Our friend, Okonjo-Iweala, is also known as “Wahala,” a popular Pidgin English word in Nigerian meaning trouble. She told us, “I loved this nickname …. To me, it was a badge of honor.” As a world-renowned development economist, author, and advocate, Okonjo-Iweala has been a force for gender-equal economic development, sustainable financing, and anti-corruption. Okonjo-Iweala has held some of the most distinguished positions in the government of Nigeria, the World Bank, and in global multilateral institutions. Okonjo-Iweala’s impressive ability to drive change makes her one of the most influential figures on the world stage. In a time of global volatility, it is a time to take stock of how she will govern at the WTO.

In February 2019, we conducted a two-week-long interview on redefining leadership with Okonjo-Iweala for our study on “Redefining Leadership in the Age of SDGs.”

Read the full post here on the Harvard Kennedy School’s WAPPP Wire.