Amina Mohamed – Kenya’s minister of Sport, Heritage and Culture - bears Africa’s hopes to lead the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the first time in history.
Mohamed was thrust into the spotlight by reason of the sudden resignation of WTO Director General, the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, almost a year before the end of his term. Incidentally, Azevedo is the man who beat Mohamed for the post back in 2013. He leaves the organisation this month (August) in his own words, to allow for a successor to be chosen before WTO Council meetings in 2021. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has already endorsed Mohamed’s candidature for the top post of what is considered an “indispensable backbone of international trade cooperation” – WTO, which started in the late 1940s as the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).
Kenya submitted Mohamed’s candidature for the position on July 7, 2020 with a conviction that she will “revitalise” the WTO to better serve the needs of all nations – big and small – given her attributes as a firm believer in the strengthening of international multilateral
institutions. In an exclusive interview with Kenya’s Ambassador to Botswana, His Excellency Mohamed Shidiye this week in Gaborone, he waxed lyrical about the Kenyan candidate’s abilities. He said the post of Director General of WTO requires the “skills of ambassador, vision of a politician and tenacity of a technocrat”. Somehow, Mohamed fits all these qualities. She is an accomplished civil servant and diplomat boasting over three decades of service in various high-level international, regional and national portfolios; has held various ministerial portfolios in Kenya including in Foreign Affairs.
During this time Kenya hosted the 10 th WTO Ministerial Conference – for the first time in Africa, which she also chaired, becoming the first woman to ever chair the WTO Ministerial conference. Kenya also hosted for the first time in Africa, the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICA VI), which Mohamed co-chaired. Japan pledged US$30 billion towards infrastructure and people empowerment in Africa and $10 billion under public private partnership. Ambassador Shidiye explained that Mohamed has also chaired WTO Ministerial Committees at the highest level, thereby making her the ideal candidate among the eight candidates from Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Korea, Moldovia, The United Kingdom and Kenya.
Mohamed’s prospects look bright. Africa has three candidates; Middle East has one while South America - Mexico has held the post before and was succeeded by Brazil, which discounts her. In Africa 44 members will vote 10 are observers; Asia has 34, while 40 will vote in Europe; Middle East 11 and South America 34 bringing the total to 163 votes. Only four candidates will remain after the first round. The voting is based on consensus. In the second round two will remain and then people will negotiate or bargain. Africa
currently commands only two percent of the global trade. An African candidate will reform, reboot and reorganise WTO to open trade between Africa and the rest of the world.
If she triumphs, Mohammed will be the first woman to hold the position of Director General of WTO. A spokesperson of SADC told Botswana Guardian that the regional economic bloc had not yet pronounced its position to back the candidate from East Africa Community (EAC).
Seven (7) years ago the trio was barely fresh-faced Batswana teens who had just finished secondary school and unfamiliar with the Spanish language. But as they arrived home from Havanna, via Johannesburg last month, the three did not just boast proficiency in the Spanish language, but most importantly, had added titles to their names.
Ambrocia Matabogo, a young lady of 25 years from Lekgwapheng ward, Molepolole; Masa Martha Mogaetsho, 27, of Botalaote ward in Serowe and Seabe Thupa, a young man of 26 years also from Serowe are now Doctors. They earned their Degrees in General
Medicine from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in the island of Cuba, which is reeling under half a century economic and financial blockade from neighbouring imperial North America. It was never going to be a bed of roses. The trio endured trials and tribulations.
Ambrocia suffered a severe depression on her third year when she could not adapt to the new school; Martha could not comprehend her time away from family, the first direct support system that he ever had while Seabe had to contend with the inevitability that he could not render any support to his family, and neither could they. But throughout those seven years, they persevered under a new and exciting culture replete with its Socialist political ideology until they finally took to the podium to receive their Doctoral awards. All three admit that graduation day marked their highest moment in Cuba when they finally became Doctors.
Armed with both theoretical and practical knowledge, the trio is best placed to proffer advice to their homeland on how to improve the health system. Ambrocia, now a General Doctor, did her primary education at Kgomotso English medium and Lewis Memorial School. She them did her junior school at Masilo secondary before completing at Kweneng international secondary school. She says Botswana must see Covid-19 pandemic as a wake-up call and pluck a leaf from Cuba by investing more in the health system. “Cubans take medicine very serious. They invest so much in their health system by training a lot of doctors and specialists.
“Their medicine is primary medicine, which is based on teaching their people how to prevent diseases, preparing them for any health issues they might go through, pregnancy and all sorts. Botswana could also try to adopt primary health care, because it is affordable
and more effective” she posited. In like manner, Martha started at Khuduga Primary school, then transferred to Hillcrest Primary until Standard 4 and finished at Letlhabile Primary. Her junior secondary education was at Maikano Junior while her senior was done at Mogoditshane Senior Secondary School.
For Dr. Martha Mogaetsho the lesson she took from her studies in Cuba was to always put the needs of her patients first and to not deny them any medical service they may need regardless of their background or social standing. She also learnt the importance of training as many of one’s citizens as possible so that all work at improving the health system and be counted among the best countries in medical practice. Dr Seabe Thupa went to Swaneng Primary School then did his junior school in Tonota, Mmashoro and Kgalemang before finally going to Mater Spei for his senior secondary education.
For him the seven years in Cuba felt more like a benchmarking trip on life than a trip abroad to study medicine. He learnt Cuba’s health system from primary level to the highest level and believes he will propose its replication in Botswana one day when he works in the ministry of health. “The most important thing I learnt on practicing medicine was how much they value and emphasise on the Doctor-Patient relationship and how they practice more of preventative medicine rather than curative”, he said.
Asked what lessons can Botswana education system and particularly Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital take from Cuba's education system and especially ELAM in the area of medicine and biotechnology, Dr. Thupa said: “I personally have never been to the hospital so I don’t know how the teaching system is but it can learn this; for the education system to be more practical, as early as first or second year students should be attending to patients, knowing how the hospital works and already being exposed to research among other things”.
Equally, Dr. Matabogo feels that more investment on training Batswana to become specialists is important because medicine is broad. “Some doctors become professors, some researchers, some go into public health, some become medical books authors, all this would
broaden/enrich our health sector and ensure that our nation has the best medical attention”, she said.
Dr. Masa Martha Mogaetsho adds that the greatest lesson Botswana can take from Cuba’s health sector is that prevention is better than cure! “This is the kind of system we need to implement in Botswana. Also to remember that less is more, we don’t need all the latest technology in a system where we don’t have enough personnel to operate all those machines. “What we need to do is to continually encourage the making of diagnosis through interrogation and less invasive measures. “I also encourage that we invest in our doctors by sending them for specialisation and trusting and giving them the opportunity to take up leadership positions in the hospitals. Who better to treat your people than the people themselves”?