Okonjo-Iweala jostles for WTO top job with five other women

Okonjo-Iweala jostles for WTO top job with five other women

Nigeria’s former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and five other women are set to battle for the right to be the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The six candidates are Okonjo-Iweala; South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.

The Geneva-based organization is looking for a replacement for Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo; who is stepping down in August — a year before the scheduled end of his four-year term.

Azevedo’s successor will need to steer the WTO through reforms and negotiations in the face of rising protectionism, a deep recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and growing trade tensions — notably between the United States and China.

Also Read: MASSOB slams PDP, APC over non-support of Ndigbo Presidency

There is broad support to pick a candidate from Africa and a woman, sources following the process told the Reuters news agency.

No African has been director-general since the formation of the WTO in 1948.

Okonjo-Iweala is a development and finance specialist who spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist; rising to the position of managing director.

“Few doubt that Okonjo-Iweala is a force to be reckoned with;” the US news site Politico reported in June, calling her a “political heavy hitter” in an article about her nomination.

Okonjo-Iweala was also Nigeria’s finance minister twice; serving from 2003 to 2006 under President Olusegun Obasanjo and 2011 to 2015 under Goodluck Jonathan.

During her second term as finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala was “credited with developing reform programs that helped improve governmental transparency and stabilizing the economy;” according to the US business magazine Forbes, which ranked her No. 48 among the world’s top 50 “Power Women” in 2015.

The Harvard-educated economist, who holds a Ph.D. from MIT, has also served as Nigeria’s foreign minister.

The 66-year old sits on the board of the Twitter social media network and Standard Chartered Bank and chairs the board of Gavi, a global vaccine alliance.

“I’m interested in [the WTO] position because I believe in the power of trade to lead to a shared prosperity; to lift people’s lives,” Okonjo-Iweala explained in an interview when her nomination was announced.

“Everybody knows that the WTO is going through a rough time,” she said, speaking from Washington, DC.

“So I’ll be looking to see what critical reforms members can subscribe to — either reforms to the dispute settlement system or in updating the rule book of the WTO, which will take time,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that Africa’s share of world trade is only 3% — something that she believes she could help increase if she were to become the WTO’s director-general.

“Going there, I will be working for all members,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

“But, of course, I’m African and I’ll be interested to make sure that Africa also benefits from whatever the WTO has to give. There is absolutely no reason why I cannot make sure that Africa also benefits.”

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has supported Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

About The Author

A writer with a keen interest in human stories and topical issues around the world. [email protected]

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.