TIME Magazine has named the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in its 2021 TIME100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Okonjo-Iweala is the only Nigerian on the 2021 list which also had other global influential personalities such as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan; Naomi Osaka, Britney Spears, Angelique Kidjo, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Kamala Harris and others.
Prince Harry and Meghan in an article on the selection of Okonjo-Iweala hailed the WTO boss, especially in her efforts to ensure vaccine equity.
“What will it take to vaccinate the world? Unity, cooperation—and leaders like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,” wrote Prince Harry and Meghan wrote.
“As the first African and first woman to lead the WTO, a 164-member group of nations that oversees trade across the world, Okonjo-Iweala took on the role of director-general this March at a watershed moment for our global health and well-being. Make no mistake, her job affects every person, family and community.
“As we face a constant barrage of vaccine misinformation, bureaucratic slowdowns across both government and industry, and the rise of variants that underscore the urgency of the situation, Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that to end the pandemic, we must work together to equip every nation with equitable vaccine access,” they added.
Prince Harry and Meghan pointed out that their, “conversations with her have been as informative as they are energising. This is partly because, despite the challenges, she knows how to get things done—even between those who don’t always agree—and does so with grace and a smile that warms the coldest of rooms.
“The fragility of our world right now cannot be overstated. Just over a quarter of the nearly eight billion global population is fully vaccinated.
“Achieving vaccine equity is a global duty of compassion for one another. Our hope is that guided by strong leaders like Ngozi, we can get there soon.”
Okonjo-Iweala, 67, is an economist and development specialist.
She is a renowned global finance expert with over 31 years of experience, having worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. She used to be the Chair of the Board of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and formerly African Union Special Envoy to mobilise international financial support in the fight against COVID-19.
In addition, Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s finance minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 and briefly as foreign affairs minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
As finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala steered Nigeria through the varying degree of reforms, particularly on macroeconomic, trade, financial and real sector issues.
As Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, her several portfolios included oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.
Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008-2009 food crises and later in the trying period of the global financial crisis.