The African Women Leaders Network is a mobilizing movement of African women and their supporters. It provides a convening platform for thought leadership and action and seeks to amplify the voice, agency and participation of women at all levels of decision making, particularly the top leadership on the Continent and elsewhere.
The leadership contest for the post of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is one of the few international organizations that has never been led by a woman and is therefore of interest to us.
The WTO’s impact and r each 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 (AfCF TA) a critical agreement for Africa’s people centred growth, internal trade, job creation and investment attraction. 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. Her candidacy 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 far mers 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.
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.