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Amina’s star optimistic as selection process for the next WTO Director General enters the home stretch

By Walter Chesang | October 7th 2020

The selection process for the most suitable candidate to lead the World Trade Organisation for the next four years officially enters the final lap today, following the close of the second round of consultations involving diplomats based in Geneva on October 6, 2020.

Currently, the frontrunner to head the World Trade Organisation, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Amina Mohamed has maintained a strong lead against the remaining candidates after the elimination of Dr. Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico, Mr. Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt and Amb. Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova following the first round of consultations in early September.

Sources in Geneva have revealed that Ms. Mohamed was the most preferred candidate in the first round and also the frontrunner throughout the campaign process owing to her exceptional political and diplomatic pedigree.

In comparison to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Mohammad Moziad Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia, the Rt Hon Dr. Liam Fox MP of the United Kingdom and Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Mohamed brings the distinguishable political and diplomatic experience, having served as Kenya’s Envoy to the global trading body, chairing three of its highest bodies while she served in this position – the Trade Policy Review Body, the Dispute Settlement Body and the Governing General Council. She is also the only one among the remaining candidates to have chaired a very successful Ministerial Conference of the WTO, the first in Africa, while serving as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

It is believed that Amb. Mohamed was born for this role and that her entire career trajectory has prepared her to rise to the demands of the role in streamlining systems and structures within the WTO. Mohamed exhibits a binary of outstanding traits evident in her stellar performance in government, as a diplomat and an international civil servant. She is a visionary leader who is also tactical and very practical with the ability to form competent teams with remarkable precision and inspiration.  As the bearer of the most ‘first’ titles in comparison to the other candidates, she is the Alpha in the pack, as far as the wishes of the member states concerning the ideal candidate are.

As announced by Amb. David Walker of New Zealand who is also chairing the General Council, “where Members are faced in the final selection with equally meritorious candidates, they shall take into consideration as one of the factors the desirability of reflecting the diversity of the WTO’s membership in successive appointments to the post of Director-General.”

Bearing in mind that Africa and a woman has never acceded to the helm of the WTO, it is fair to say that it indeed is time for Africa! If conducted fairly, the final choice in the selection will therefore come down to the two female candidates from Africa as Asia has already previously had its turn as Director General.

Diplomats in Geneva and other trade experts around the world believe that of the two remaining African Candidates, Amb. Amina Mohamed has an incontestable understanding of the working mechanisms of the WTO, a sure asset for the organisation that needs a leader who understands its structures and has a solid plan to reform and revive it as demonstrated in her track-record and vision for the Organisation.

She has been widely regarded as one of the finest diplomats and Foreign Ministers internationally receiving recognition and awards of merit from Presidents and Prime Ministers of various countries across the globe. Mohamed’s political reach and ability to deliver results at the highest leadership levels of government around the globe is unmatched. Her proven ability to rally consensus as the Chair of the 2015 WTO Ministerial Conference, where the two most successful outcomes in the history of the WTO were delivered, was perhaps a precursor of her steely ability to rally diverse global interests towards a common goal. Essential for the WTO.

She has the physical presence, appearance, charisma and humility of a natural-born leader that energises the people around her to deliver extraordinary results. The WTO needs an extraordinary leader like her at this time to confront the challenges facing the WTO and transform the multilateral trading system.

She has a history of firsts in heading international organisations. She was the first woman to Chair the African Group at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where she also served as the African Group’s Spokesperson. She was the first African to Chair the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Policy Review Body in 2003, the Dispute Settlement Body in 2004 and the Governing General Council in 2005. She was also the first woman to coordinate the African Group at the United Nations Human Rights Commission including the Historic Conference Against Racism. Served as the President of the Conference on Disarmament in 2002 and the first woman and African to Chair the Council of the International Organization for Migration in 2002. She was also the first African and woman to serve as the President of the Conference on Disarmament in 2002 and to Chair the Council of the International Organization for Migration in 2002. From 2009-2011, she served as the President of the United Nations Conference on Transnational Crime, Vienna, Austria. She is presently co-chairing together with the Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab (UK Foreign Secretary) of the Commonwealth High Level Platform for Girls’ Education, co-inaugurated with the Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister in 2018. She is also the current President of 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Amb. Amina has led with impeccable integrity above any reproach over close to four decades’ service in government and at the highest political and diplomatic rankings nationally and internationally. As a renowned International Trade Law expert, she provides WTO Member states with an opportunity to give the revitalisation of the international trade organisation a chance.

Athletic legends have spoken to her remarkability with glowing regard. Marathon World Record Holder and the only athlete to run the full Marathon in under 2 hours Eliud Kipchoge has described Amb. Mohamed as having the rare trait of exceptional endurance only exhibited by people with outstanding mental and physical stamina. The kind of people who break records in the most unlikely situations. He believes Amb. Amina is willing to find the WTO Membership identify and conquer the challenges within the WTO.

Legendary athlete Dr. Kipchoge Keino celebrated her as having the ability to perform under the most difficult circumstances, understanding the issues facing the system more than anyone else and having the integrity, track-record and unmatched professional, political and managerial competence to set never before witnessed trade consensus records.

Dr. Paul Tergat who was the first Kenyan to set the world record in the men’s Marathon in 2003, recognised her as being fearless in her approach and adaptable to the changing needs of the Institutions under her mandate. He likened her style of leadership to the mind of a long-distance runner; consistent and greatly adaptable to the changing terrain to deliver results in record time.

Tegla Loroupe who was the first African athlete to win the prestigious New York Marathon in 1994 revealed that in the years that she has known Amb. Mohamed, she leads with humility, an open and strategic mind and is tireless in her efforts to lead people and organisations towards agreement. Tegla narrated that during her long-distance running career, Amb. Mohamed indiscriminately hosted delegations of athletes of all nationalities at her Geneva residence.

David Rudisha who is the reigning 800m World Record Holder noted that even with immense alternative opportunities at her disposal, Amb. Mohamed has chosen to lead the World Trade Organisation to a new level where the expectations of all members are equally met and surpassed. He added that her vision weaves inclusiveness into the international trade regime uplifting the economic status of all Members and the livelihoods of billions of people all over the world. He was of the view that the WTO is in urgent need of a leader of her stature right now.

Catherine Ndereba who is the only woman in athletics history to have won the Boston Marathon four times and the only person in the world of long-distance running to win 12 half Marathons was of the view that for millions of Kenyan and African girls, Amina Mohamed has been a living hero and mentor. A legend whose exceptional negotiation influence gave Kenya a Constitution that today holds our country intact. She added that, when she broke the Marathon World Record in 2001, Amb. Mohamed was negotiating a life-changing Trade Agreement at the WTO that saved millions of lives around the world.

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