What Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment means for women leadership and Africa

The water of participation in leadership is fast-sweeping away from the shores of past narratives. And in recent years, we have seen a swelling tide of women emerging to top leadership positions in the sea of various countries and organisations across the world. De facto, there is an impressively growing female representation in leadership and governance. In Rwanda, for example, women dominate over 60 per cent of the parliament, making it the most gender-inclusive government in the world, all of whom are performing their functions with utmost efficiency, competence, purpose and results.

It’s no longer news that in the 25-year history of the prestigious and leading World Trade Organisation (WTO), a woman is set to hold its highest office for the first time; another indication of the ever-evolving narrative of women in leadership.

Since Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination for the top and much-coveted job, she has enjoyed immense support from various multilateral organisations including the European Union (EU) and various governments. And of course, the African Union (AU) being Africa’s candidate — and the first African set to clinch the post. Apart from the achievement of free global trade in a critical time when the world is facing a post-pandemic economic recession, this will also facilitate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). Also, Africa will have an opportunity to strengthen its trade relations and agreements with the rest of the world.

She has a strong track record of leadership experience and professional expertise;  having served in public service, co-ordinating Nigeria’s finances and helping to mitigate a major economic meltdown during fuel subsidy. Amongst other things, she is the former Managing Director of the World Bank and also serves on the board of reputable organizations. And now, she is set to reach what appears to be the blue apogee of her successful career as a financial expert and development economist. She is indeed a force of remarkable reckoning and professional of international repute.

Sequel to the postponement of the in-person meeting of the General Council earlier scheduled for November 9 to announce the new DG, one can only hope the best candidate wins; who, in any case, would be the very first woman to head the WTO in history. And whatever the outcome of the consultations leading up to the selection and announcement is, a message is passed and clear to the world already: women have the enormous ability to lead in high places, and also rise above boxed socio-cultural barriers to own their leadership journeys. And if not anything else, it is a reminder to the world- yet again or perhaps afresh, that we must champion inclusive spaces at all levels for women to thrive and have equal opportunity to lead.

Agbaje Ayomide,



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