Feminism Enters WTO Elections -African Women Leaders Back Dr. Iweala’s Candidature

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As lobbying and campaign mounts for the naming of the next Director General of the World Trade Organization, the women of Africa are eschewing apathy in who gets that prestigious post. While Africans are fighting tooth and nail to fill the position for the first time since the creation of the organization decades ago, the women folks of the Continent are playing the feminist cards, contending that the job provides a “convening platform” to amplify the voice of women. Under the banner the African Women Leaders Network, prominent women of the Continent are raising their voices in support of Dr. Iweala, a former Nigerian Finance Minister. The Analyst reports.

The African Women Leaders Network says it is supporting firmer Finance Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a female, in the leadership contest for the post of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The women say the WTO is one of the few international organizations that has never been led by a woman and is therefore of interest to make a woman, specifically Dr. Iweala, the next Director General.

The Africa Women Leader Network says WTO’s impact and reach means that the leadership must have convening authority, vision with a human face, integrity and global network, be free of geopolitical bias and demonstrate a commitment to multilateralism which will benefit countries both individually and collectively.

An active and results oriented WTO can be an even stronger partner with Africa, given the recent adoption of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) a critical agreement for Africa’s people centred growth, internal trade, job creation and investment attraction.

The group says the process of adoption may also provide some important lessons for WTO revived negotiations which can benefit the world.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an internationally renowned economist and international development expert, with experience in trade policy reform in her home country, as well as at the World Bank.

The group contends that the candidacy of the former Nigerian Finance Minister is based on a stellar track record from steering the complex financial reform in her own country, Nigeria, as well as her demonstrated brokering, negotiation, technical and leadership competencies in private sector and development finance institutions and other processes.

“Her work on Gender Budgeting as Nigeria’s Finance Minister provided additional funding to women farmers and for women’s health issues. She also spearheaded the You Win – Youth Enterprise with Innovation – supporting job creation for youth, with a special focus on young women entrepreneurs,” the women said in a release dated June 26, 2020.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has served as the Chair of Gavi, the Global Vaccine Alliance, where she shepherded an unprecedentedly high recent replenishment – helping to ensure a greater reach of vaccines to the poor. This role and her AU Special Envoy role, to mobilize international economic support for the Continental Fight against COVID- 19, are also clear testimony of the high regard in which she is held.

The World Trade Organization is sometimes viewed as a complex, and inaccessible institution with rigid and in some instances, outdated processes. This belies the potentially beneficial impact it can have for women informal traders, far away from its corridors in Geneva. Its mandate for smooth, predictable and free trade can resonate with and support African women traders – a backbone of Africa’s economy – who still face a number of hurdles. A robust and engaged WTO can benefit women and men around the world.

While Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has proud African roots, she is a committed global citizen. Her candidacy must be considered for her unquestionable knowledge, integrity, broad and relevant domain expertise, commitment to excellence and leadership track record in institutional reform and performance. In recognition of her continental and global accomplishments, this highly accomplished African woman should be elected to head this critical institution at a time the world needs even more so a global rules-based order.

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