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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: ‘I hope the tensions won’t lead to World War III!’

By Nicholas Norbrook

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Posted on April 6, 2022 13:19

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation (photo: rights reserved)

As multiple crises gnaw away at global unity, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation talks to The Africa Report about geopolitics, vaccine equality and the future of free trade on the continent and beyond.

We are sitting in an illuminated room at the Cercle de l’Union Interallié, next to the British and US embassies in Paris, a stone’s throw from the Elysée Palace. It was founded in 1917, by the officers and political leaders of an embryonic ‘West’. It is a grand old institution. In places the gilt work is peeling.

Today, pandemics, recession and strategic competition are in the air as, with characteristic ebullience, World Trade Organisation (WTO) director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala guides us through the geopolitical fault lines she traces every day.

“I hope the tensions won’t lead to World War III!”, she says of the events unfolding in Ukraine that will undoubtedly have global repercussions.

Established in 1994, but based on a set of rules written down almost 50 years before, the WTO has lost its shine. We are far from the ‘Davos decade’ of the mid-1990s to mid-2000s – the heyday of the

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