The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has thrown its weight of support behind former minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the top job of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
It is on record that no African has assumed the position of director-general of the organisation since its creation on January 1, 1995.
Nigeria had on 9 June 2020, nominated Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the post of WTO director-general to succeed the current director-general, Mr Roberto Azevêdo, who has announced he will step down on 31 August 2020.
The country had earlier nominated Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah for the position, but had to withdraw him, presenting Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement.
This action of the Nigerian government endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari drew the ire of the Egyptian government which asked the WTO to disqualify Nigeria’s candidate on the ground that the nomination was coming after the deadline for the nomination of candidates.
A statement by the ministry of Foreign Affairs disclosed that the decision of ECOWAS has the blessing of its highest body, the ECOWAS authority of Heads of States and Government.
The body called on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse Okonjo-Iweala’s candidature.
The statement reads: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform that the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government has endorsed the candidature of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for the period 2021-2025.
“The apex body noted that since the creation of the WTO on 1 January 1995, which is a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) established on 1 January 1948, no African has assumed the position of director-general of the Organisation.
“The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government endorsed the candidate of Nigeria noting her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions, her established reputation as a fearless reformer, her excellent negotiating and political skills, her experience of over 30 years as a Development Economist with a long standing interest in trade, her excellent academic qualifications, her positions as managing director World Bank, and currently as Board Chair Gavi, and AU Special Envoy to Mobilise Financial Resources for the fight against COVID-19.
“The body also called on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse her candidature.”
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has since accepted the nomination of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as one of the candidates vying for the office of the director-general of the organisation.
Africa has nominees for the office of the WTO director general from Benin Republic, Arab Republic of Egypt and Nigeria.
Africa is expected to present a single candidate for the election scheduled for next year to strengthen its chances of winning.
Already, Benin Republic has stepped down for Nigeria, saying that her decision to withdraw her nomination was informed by consultations conducted by three African countries registered by the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on February 10, 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the endorsement of a single candidate from Africa for the post of director general of the WTO, for the period 2021 – 2025.
Benin said that the decision to give her support to the candidacy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the person of Okonjo-Iweala was informed by AU decision to support a consensus candidate.