Between Nigerian Okonjo-Iweala and Egyptian Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, who gets WTO DG?

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The World Trade Organization has got two strong nominations as it shop for an occupant of its number one seat, they are Nigerian born Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Egyptian born Mr Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh

Mamdouh was nominated by Egypt on 9 June 2020, for the post of WTO Director-General to succeed the current Director-General, Mr Roberto Azevêdo, who has announced he will step down on 31 August 2020. WTO announced.

Hamid Mamdouh is currently the Director of the Trade in Services division of the WTO.  Prior to that he was a Senior Counsellor in the Services Division.  He had been the Secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995.  During that time, he was also responsible for all legal affairs in the area of Trade in Services.  During the Uruguay Round negotiations his responsibilities included legal matters relating to the drafting of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).  Prior to that he was a member of the Diplomatic Service of Egypt.  As a trained lawyer, legal matters have constituted an important part of his work throughout his career.

He is to compete with Nigerian born Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who was equally nominated by Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Currently, Dr Okonjo-Iweala is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.

Previously, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, 2011-2015, and briefly Foreign Minister in 2006,

She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations.

As Managing Director of the World Bank, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. Dr Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008-2009 food crisis and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was Chair of the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world

According to the timetable announced by the Chair of the General Council, David Walker, the nomination period which commenced on 8 June will run for a month and close on 8 July 2020.

Shortly after the nomination period has closed, candidates will be invited to meet with members at a special General Council meeting, present their views and take questions from the membership.

While the required criteria in experiences and academic qualification for the WTO number one position is not made public, the nominations now represent global development and trade experience and grounded experience in internal structure of the organization.

It is obvious that the global trade organization has got so much work to do at this time of global trade crisis after major disruption occasioned by the corona virus pandemic. It is not a mere talk to say that WTO need strong leadership to make the required impact in savaging the world trade system as most economies are experiencing serious downturn.

There is however time for more nominations from other member countries. While more are awaited, past good performance of WTO stands to strengthen confidence in the organization to select the best.

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