The African Union has thrown its full weight behind former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the World Trade Organisation as its director general, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.Ramaphosa, who is also the AU chairman, called on the continent to rally behind Okonjo-Iweala to be elected as the first African at the helm of the UN agency responsible for the formulation of international trade policies.
Okonjo-Iweala is the first African woman to reach the final stage of selection for the high post. She is competing against Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.
However, no matter which candidate wins the post, the outcome will see the WTO having its first-ever female head of the UN agency.
“Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a highly distinguished African who has excelled in various public offices in Nigeria, with responsibilities in the AU, and in numerous international assignments,” Ramaphosa said.
According to the AU chairman, Okonjo-Iweala is the right person “to re-position the WTO in order to be an effective instrument for facilitating a fair, just, equitable and rules-based trading system.”
“I have no doubt that she has the credentials and capability to restore order in an otherwise turbulent multi-lateral trading system,” the president said.
Ramaphosa expressed optimism that other regions would also unite and support the African candidate, whose leadership of the WTO would assist in the full integration of the continent as an important player in the global multi-lateral trading system.
The Nigerian surpassed two other African candidates to reach the final round of the selection. The others were Egyptian Abdel Hamid Mamdouh and Amina Mohamed of Kenya, a former foreign minister in her country.