FORMER finance minister Dr Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala has promised to get the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to industrialise the African continent if she gets appointed as its next director-general.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was one of seven original candidates seeking to be named as the next WTO boss through a process whereby rather than hold elections, the selection procedure relies on finding a consensus candidate. After a series of meetings and presentations by the candidates, the list was whittled down to five and last week, it became just Dr Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee.
A winner is due to be announced by November 7 after the next series of meetings. If Dr Okonjo-Iweala emerges triumphant from the final elimination round, she would not only be the first woman but also the first African to lead the global trade body.
Paul Nwabuikwu, Dr Okonjo Iweala’s spokesman, said his principal will ensure more industrialisation in Africa and Nigeria if appointed. He added that the emergence of the former finance minister would also mean greater representation for developing countries including Nigeria.
Mr Nwabuikwu said: “She started out as Nigeria’s candidate and then she became the West African candidate and from there she became the African candidate. It is very significant that the European Union backed the candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala even over the former British secretary of state for international trade, Dr Liam Fox, which gives an idea of how much progress she has made and I think it is something to be happy about.
“The prospect is 50/50 because we have two people left but I suspect that it is even better than that because she got the very support of the European Union. Having got to this point, she has a very good chance of emerging as the WTO director-general but it is not over until it is over.
“For a long time, third world countries and developing nations have consistently complained that the rules of global trade don’t favour them. Having one of our own up there means at the very list that there will greater attention to the issues that concern us.
“WTO under her leadership will take a look at certain fundamentals and Africa will be encouraged to produce more and also to process more of what it produces. We are not going to be like accidental players but we will actually be there because Dr Okonjo-Iweala is very passionate about Africa and the global south.”
He added, however, that Dr Okonjo-Iweala would push the interests of all race and colours when appointed. Mr Nwabuikwu said: “Before you can push Africa’s interest, you must also persuade others that they have a stake in encouraging those interests to become a reality.
“The WTO is fundamentally about encouraging open trade, it is about the multilateral system, it is about agreements, it is about negotiation and conflict resolution. There are specific tools for ensuring that countries like Nigeria and continents like Africa are not left out.”