50 most influential people in IP 2022: MIP recognises Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the WTO
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the director general of the World Trade Organization in Switzerland
The COVID patent waiver, proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020 at the World Trade Organization (WTO), was one of the most contested projects in the intellectual property industry last year.
Thanks to director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s consistent efforts to mediate the interests of different countries and stakeholders, however, WTO members agreed to a partial waiver of IP rights in June.
Okonjo-Iweala voiced the need to boost vaccine accessibility in developing countries shortly after she was elected to office in 2021.
The June deal temporarily removed IP barriers around COVID vaccine patents for low and middle-income countries – although it was a considerably watered-down version of what India and South Africa initially proposed.
Okonjo-Iweala said: “On the TRIPS waiver, now we have something in hand.”
“It’s really exciting now to go to those factories that are starting to set up all over the developing world and start to work with them.”
Though many argue that the deal offers little beyond the exemptions already enjoyed by WTO members, Okonjo-Iweala's hard work to make the COVID patent waiver a reality – whether you love it or hate it – deserves recognition.