Okonjo-Iweala, Amina Mohamed remain in WTO top position race

Amina Mohamed.

Two African candidates, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Amina C. Mohamed of Kenya, have made it to the list of five candidates that will advance to the next stage of selecting the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Another African candidate, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt, didn’t make it to the next step.


General Council Chair, David Walker of New Zealand and his two co-facilitators in the selection process disclosed a list of five members who will proceed in the next phase, bringing the list down from eight candidates.


Apart from the two Africans, others who secured the broadest and deepest support from the WTO membership include Yoo Myung-hee of Korea, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.


“Throughout the six days of consultations it was clear to us that the entire membership is both committed to and fully engaged in this process,” Amb. Walker said in a statement on Friday.

During the confidential consultations Amb. Walker, Amb. Castillo, chair of the Dispute Settlement Body, and Amb. Aspelund, chair of the Trade Policy Review Body, posed to each delegation a single question: “What are your preferences?”

Members then submitted four preferences to the “troika” of ambassadors.

African candidate

The process to select a candidate who will replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo is now entering yet another interesting but tough phase with the contest remaining with strong candidates.

There is a push for Africa to head the organization as many experts believe it would give the continent, which has benefitted less from the international trade system, a chance to make their voice heard.

The continent has never had the top WTO top position, even though there are no rules which dictate that the Director Position should be rotational or be taken up on a continent-wide basis.

The two remaining African candidates are strong contenders.

Okonjo-Iweala is a two-time former finance minister and foreign affairs minister of Nigeria, former managing director of World Bank Group, and currently sits on the board of Twitter.

Mohamed, on the other hand, is also a strong contender with a long career in diplomacy and having represented Kenya at the WTO, as well as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Kenya diplomatic Mission in Geneva.

She also chaired the African Group in the WTO’s Human Rights Commission, and she was the first woman to chair WTO’s General Council in 2005.

Another phase

The second phase of consultations will begin on September 24 and run until October 6, according to WTO.

During this time, members will be asked in confidential consultations to express two preferences to the facilitators with an eye to bringing the number of candidates from five to two.

Following this process, Amb. Walker will call other Heads of Delegations meeting at which the results will be announced to the WTO membership.

The timetable for the third and final round of consultations will be announced at that time.

The ultimate objective of the process is to secure a consensus decision by members on the next Director-General.

The General Council agreed on 31 July that there would be three stages of consultations held over a two-month period commencing September 7.

During the two months, the number of candidates would be reduced from eight to five and then two before a consensus is reached on which of the candidates becomes the WTO’s 7th Director-General.


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