WTO DG:79 Countries Declare Support For Okonjo-Iweala’s Candidacy

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was confident on Friday in her quest to lead the crisis-wracked World Trade Organization after all of Africa backed her candidacy, vowing she would champion reform.

“I feel the wind behind my back,” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55-member African Union officially supported her over her sole remaining opponent, Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea.

The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two candidates is successful in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director-general in August a year ahead of schedule.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, who served as her country’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, said it would be good if WTO could also boast its first African leader.

“If that person is African and a woman, I think that is great. Because… neither an African nor a woman has led the organisation,” she said.

But at a time when the WTO is engulfed by multiple crises, she stressed that the new chief must above all be highly skilled in political and diplomatic negotiations, as well as at the managerial level.

“The WTO at this time with the challenges it confronts needs a very competent Director General who is able to have the political reach and stature to be able to do reforms and deal at very high levels,” she said.

“It is not only having those skills, but having them all meet in one person at this juncture when the WTO needs that.”she said.

Sunday Akintoye

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