Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed’s bid for the WTO Director-General position has been dealt a blow after Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh joined the race.
Ms Amina is angling to succeed the current Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevêdo, who has announced he will step down on August 31, 2020.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Currently, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is Chair of the Board of Gavi, a Vaccine Alliance.
Previously, Dr Okonjo-Iweala twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
She also had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the number two position of Managing Director, Operations. As Managing Director of the World Bank, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion (over Ksh8 trillion) operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.
She is renowned as the first female and African candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012. Dr Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008-2009 food crisis and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was Chair of the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.
On the other hand, Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh from Egypt is a lawyer who has previously served WTO in several positions, starting from Senior Counsellor WTO Trade in Services Division between May 1993 – 2001.
He also served as the director of the Trade in Services and Investment Division of the WTO between May 2001 to September 2017.
Currently, Mamdouh is into private sector as a legal counsel to companies and associations.
On her side, Amina Mohamed before joining government worked as an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP from 2011 to 2013.
She has served as an ambassador, permanent secretary and now a cabinet secretary.
Ms Mohamed spent at least Ksh437.7 million to lobby for the African Union Commission chairmanship, which she lost to her Chad counterpart, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Kenya will be seeking the backing of African countries to clinch the post, but with the entrant of two candidates from Africa, the support from African countries will be divided among the three. The country is also expected to reach out to other friendly countries outside the continent, an exercise that could gobble up close to a billion shillings.
Other candidates who have expressed interest in the position of WTO Director-General include Dr Jesús Seade Kuri (Mexico), Mr Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova), Ms Yoo Myung-hee (Korea), Mr Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia) and Dr Liam Fox (United Kingdom).
The WTO has three main functions: help negotiate multilateral trade deals, settle cross-border commercial squabbles and serve as a repository for members’ trade policies.