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WTO: Who is backing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s bid?

By Olivier Caslin
Posted on Monday, 19 October 2020 14:26

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then Minister of Economy and Finance. At the Forum on the partnership between Africa and France in Bercy on 06 February 2015
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then Minister of Economy and Finance. At the Forum on the partnership between Africa and France in Bercy on 06 February 2015. © Bruno Levy for GJA

If Okonjo-Iweala could count on the support of president Muhammadu Buhari in her bid to lead the World Trade Organisation, she had to wait until the 15th of October to gain the blessing from the African Union.

More than four months after the start of the procedure to appoint the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on the 15th of October, the African Union (AU) finally gave its official backing to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a finalist against South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, succeeding Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who resigned in May.

Until then, the pan-African organisation had refused to take a stand, despite the fact that its current president, South African Cyril Ramaphosa, had already announced his personal support for the Nigerian candidacy at the start of September.

READ MORE Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “If we didn’t have the WTO we would have to invent it.”

Back then, contrary to the AU’s July 2019 wish to support a single bid, three Africans were still in the running.

The Egyptian contestant, Abdel Hamid Mahmoud had to leave the race on the 18th of September, followed by the Kenyan Amina Mohamed on the 8th of October, who failed the second round.

Nigeria on the front line

The convoluted selection process put in place by the WTO ultimately made it easier for the AU.

READ MORE Egypt’s Mamdouh: ‘I am the only WTO candidate supported by AU’

The announcement issued on the 15th of October by the AU Permanent Delegation in Switzerland is further good news for the former Nigerian Finance Minister who, a few weeks away from an expected result to be revealed between the 27th of October and the 7th of November, can count on a lot of support, both in Africa and outside.

His very first supporter remains the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, who himself convinced Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to enter the race in June. He was quickly followed by all leading political personnel of the country, as well as by Nigerian CEOs from the private sector, first in line being billionaire, Aliko Dangote.

LISTEN Amina Mohamed: ‘The WTO needs to regain its centrality in global governance’ 

The President of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina is also behind Okonjo-Iweala — Okonjo-Iweala backed his own bid to lead the AfDB, so can count on his support.

West Africa, EU,

Former Liberian President; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf passed on her support and enthusiasm in July, at the same time as all the member countries of ECOWAS, before the organisation in turn announced its support in September.

READ MORE It’s time for an African to lead the World Trade Organization

Outside Africa, Nigeria has over the weeks received support from the EU as well as from several former heads of government, like the UK’s Gordon Brown and New Zealand’s Helen Clark, also a former UNDP Administrator from 3009-2017.

Additionally, Ngozi Okonio-Iweala has also just received the support of 79 member countries of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), through its Secretary General, the Angolan Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti.

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