For the second time in eight years, Nigeria’s international economic jewel, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has thrown her hat into the ring of international politics. In 2012 she vied for the presidency of the World Bank and gallantly lost to American physician, Jim Yong Kim.
This time, Okonjo-Iweala, a former Managing Director of the World Bank and two-time Finance Minister of Nigeria, is a candidate for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, which will be vacated in August by Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo.
She is ranged against Mexico’s Jesús Seade Kuri and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh who pack equally intimidating credentials in the international finance system with widespread experience in the processes of the World Bank, WTO, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, among others. The Muhammadu Buhari government endorsed her candidacy which she filed on June 9, 2020, the same day that Mamdouh did.
Egypt had written a protest letter asking for Okonjo-Iweala’s disqualification as Nigeria had earlier supported the candidacy of Yonov Frederick Agah, one of the four incumbent Directors-General of the WTO, but the Organisation ignored it and confirmed her candidacy. The Federal Government obviously took this step to brighten Nigeria’s chances of success.
In terms of qualification and experience, Okonjo-Iweala eminently rivals Seade Kuri, but Egypt’s Mamdouh does not quite hit the mark though he has very respectable credentials. Kuri has been intimately involved in most of the processes that made world trade as managed through multi-lateral platforms such the WTO and GATT what they are today.
On the other hand, Okonjo-Iweala, who earned the respect of stakeholders in the international finance system as a former managing director of the World Bank and a high-flying financial engineer and economic reformer in Nigeria is a hot cake. She is on the board of Twitter, Standard Chartered Bank, the African Risk Capacity, ARC, and leads the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, GAVI.
World trade does not need the same in an unfolding coronavirus pandemic-shaped new world economy. It needs new perspectives and fresh hands to moderate the altercations of the world’s two main economic superpowers – the United States of America and China, for the good of all. Okonjo-Iweala has promised to provide the platform for America and China as well as other stakeholders to meet, dialogue and break through knotty issues.
When two or more ego-driven strong men fight themselves to a standstill as these two countries appear to have done, there is a unique touch that women bring to bear which diffuses tensions and brings antagonists back to the roundtable.
We are firmly convinced that Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the WTO will be a winner for everybody, especially Nigeria and Africa. No effort should be spared to support her.