Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Kenya’s Amina Mohamed are among the final five candidates for the leadership of the World Trade Organization.
This has raised a rallying cry in Africa to throw their support behind a unified candidate to claim the highest throne in world trade since Africa has never had a representative at the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO). These two African women have surmounted barriers to reach the final five for the leadership race.
Eight candidates were in the running, including three Africans: Kenyan Amina Mohamed, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Egyptian Hamid Mamdouh. Amina Mohamed and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala beat three other candidates including Egyptian Hamid Mamdouh to get to the final five.
They now face off against, South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, and the United Kingdom’s Liam Fox.
The second phase of the appointment process is said to run until 6 October where the number of candidates will drop further to two.
Ambassador Amina Mohamed is a politician, diplomat, and lawyer from Kenya.
She was the first woman to have held the position of Foreign Minister (Cabinet Secretary) of Kenya and the first woman to have chaired the governing General Council of the World Trade Organization, the Dispute Settlement Body, the International Organization for Migration as well as President of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime.
She also held the position of Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In an interview monitored by Ghana Talks Business, Amina Mohamed said she would be better positioned to resolve multilateral trade tensions. Amina has been credited with helping to abolish export subsidies for agricultural exports in a critical WTO deal.
Amina Mohamed also said if she was selected to the WTO, she will take up climate change issues and make it a predominant part of the WTO agenda.
“How is it possible that the WTO does not discuss climate change?… WTO must be a part of the global conversation on climate change,”
“At the end of the day, it is about the bottom line, but that bottom line can be improved by going green because that is the future,”
She said in an online media briefing from Geneva.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a financial expert, economist, and development professional with over 30 years of experience working in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served two terms as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 as well as a brief term as a Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
She was also the Managing Director of the World Bank from 2007 to 2011.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also highlighting her suitability for the position in an interview said
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
“I have a very strong trade background. Trade is not a siloed discipline. Trade is part of development, something I have been working at my whole life. It’s true I am not a WTO insider but that’s a good thing. We need someone who knows trade but brings a fresh pair of eyes…Of all the challengers for the job I have the right combination of skills.”
The mantle of the new Director-General
Brazillian Roberto Azevedo resigned from the position of Director-General of WTO on August 31. This has necessitated the search for the new Director-General.
Given the era of heightened world trade tensions especially between two of the largest economies (China and the U.S.), the new Director-General will be faced with mediating the trade dispute.
Moreover, should any of the African candidates be selected, it is believed that African trade concerns can now be at the forefront of the international trade agenda. The selection of an African candidate will better position Africa to have better competitive trade exports.