ECOWAS backs Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for WTO top job

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who has been nominated for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation by Nigeria. COURTESY: TWITTER/Geoffrey Onyeama

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) endorsed the candidature of Nigerian Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Nigeria had formally nominated Okonjo-Iweala, an economist, for the position for the period 2021-2025.

A statement signed by the chairperson of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Mahamadou Issoufou also called on other African countries and non-African countries to support her candidature.

“…since the creation of the World Trade Organization (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 Organization,” the statement said in part.

Okonjo-Iweala, currently the chair of the board of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, has previously served as Nigeria’s Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs and was also Managing Director Operations at the World Bank.

Okonjo-Iweala is the second candidate fronted by a country from Africa. Egypt nominated Egyptian-Swiss lawyer Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, who is a former long-serving WTO senior official, for the position.

Nigeria changed its candidate for the position causing Egypt to complain to the African Union that the West African nation violated the AU’s rules.

Sources following the process say there is general support for an African candidate and a woman, Reuters reports.

According to the WTO, the appointment process for the next Director-General formally began on June 8 with nominations accepted from that date until July 8.

The current WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo will step down at the end of August this year.