Twice Nigeria's finance minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint in 2006, Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a trailblazer in her homeland.
As director-general, a position that wields limited formal power, Okonjo-Iweala, 66, will need to broker global trade talks in the face of persistent US-China conflict; respond to pressure to reform trade rules, and counter protectionism heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala has indicated a key priority for her would be to work with member states to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that's required to get the global economy functioning optimally again.
"Global trade has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the multilateral system needs to be bolstered and the WTO, under your leadership, will embark on a period of substantive and procedural reform".
"Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today".
Mohammad recalled when in 2005, as Minister of Finance for Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala, successfully led a team that negotiated an 18 billion dollar debt write-off with the Paris Club.
The WTO had also faced relentless attacks from the Trump administration which, among other things, brought its dispute settlement appeal system to a grinding halt in late 2019.
As the first woman and the first African to head the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala has always been engaged in poverty reduction in developing countries and work related to vaccine and healthcare, and has rich experiences in managing worldwide organizations, said the statement, adding that her appointment meets the expectation of all. "She has all the skills necessary to be an effective leader of the organization", the United States trade representative had said.
Okonjo-Iweala becomes the organisation's seventh director-general since its creation in 1995.
The U.S. delegate said that Washington was committed to working closely with her and would be a "constructive partner".
Speaking at her first press briefing as the incoming WTO DG, Okonjo-Iweala said she had two interviews with the Trump admin and there was no indication of opposition.
The minority leader said that the election was clearly in recognition of Okonjo-Iweala's competence.Elumelu said that the caucus commended the understanding and spirit of sportsmanship exhibited by the South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee, in withdrawing from the race.He said it was another loud testament to Okonjo-Iweala's suitability for the task ahead. "That delegation was the United States".
The organisation has been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule.
On March 1, Okonjo-Iweala will take office and select her four deputies on the basis of members' recommendations. When she joins the WTO's Geneva lakeside headquarters, her portrait is set to be hung beside others of men, mostly white and from rich countries.