Former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been endorsed for the position of the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to the declaration communique signed by ECOWAS President Mahamadou Issoufou, “the strong academic and professional background of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and her large experience in national affairs as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister briefly in 2006;

Former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, gets ECOWAS' nod for the WTO big job (AFP)
Former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, gets ECOWAS' nod for the WTO big job (AFP)

“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 African Union Special Envoy to Mobilize Financial Resources for the fight against COVID-19,” makes her the best candidate for the job.

“ECOWAS endorses the candidature of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation for the period 2021-2025 and calls on other African countries as well as non-African countries to endorse her candidature.”

Backed from home

President Muhammadu Buhari nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the position on June 5, 2020.

The new WTO chief will be tasked with managing the trade war between China and the United States, initiate reforms in the face of rising protectionism and steer the world to new trade pastures in the face of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will square up to other candidates in August (WEF)
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will square up to other candidates in August (WEF)

Governments have until July 8 to nominate their candidates. These candidates will then present themselves to the WTO’s 164 members the week after.

These presentations will likely be done virtually this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WTO usually chooses a new chief by consensus. Voting is often a last resort. This year could be different, however.

It is yet unclear if the African Union (AU) will be backing Okonjo-Iweala, after some member nations protested that her nomination had arrived late.

No African has assumed the position of DG of the WTO since it was established in 1995.