African poised to become first woman leader of World Trade Body

Ernest Moloi - BG reporter
Thursday, 03 September 2020
African poised to become first woman leader of World Trade Body

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).

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