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President Uhuru Kenyatta has endorsed Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed’s candidature for Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to succeed Brazilian Robert Azevedo next month.

She has since been endorsed by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance and received positive reviews including from the influential news organisation, Bloomberg. Securing this post will cement Kenya’s credentials as a pivotal state, reliable partner and player.

It will demonstrate our ability to galvanise regional, continental and global supporters, having secured a seat on the UN Security Council recently.

Earlier this month, two Kenyans were named to top positions in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and for half a decade a Kenyan – Dr Mukhisa Kituyi - has navigated the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

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Bloomberg’s positive review mirrors the president’s appreciation of the seasoned diplomat’s credentials and suitability for the post.

The endorsement early this week emanated from Amina’s press conference at the WTO headquarters in Geneva on July 16, where she unveiled her reform agenda and demonstrated her overall suitability for this post to the global media.

The fact that the president and Bloomberg have independently endorsed the candidate in almost identical terms only confirms the global consensus about the diplomat’s qualifications and suitability, hence the reason for WTO members to rally behind Amina’s candidacy.

In all these reviews, Amina’s qualifications transcend gender and the fact that she would be the first African to lead the WTO. Those who know her prefer that her capability is acknowledged in full beyond gender and continent of origin.

If picked, she would be the first woman and African to lead WTO. She has demonstrated qualities which make her stand out and capable of leading WTO towards reform at a critical juncture.

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Having worked with WTO as Kenya’s envoy in Geneva before and also chaired its top decision-making organs, she understands the organisation’s processes, its current challenges and areas for reform.

She is fluent in the WTO’s procedures and legal texts and personally helped negotiate the WTO’s most recent package of multilateral agreements. Bloomberg believes in her, WTO would have achieved a positive ideology of belief in free trade.

If elected, she would head WTO at a time of growing challenges in world trade as characterised by growing trade nationalism, Britain’s departure from the European Union and climate change tensions between the USA and China.

Probably her biggest challenge would be to steer global trade recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic by restoring multilateralism and formulating a short and mid-term strategy to combat poverty through sustainable development and global cooperation.

She would also be joining the WTO at a time when Kenya is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the USA, itself an example of how nations should hammer trade deals within a multilateral system.

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WTO at this moment in time is at a crossroad, in part due to the tensions between leading economic superpowers and growing disdain of multilateral institutions.  Its negotiating and dispute resolution powers and mechanisms have been weakened partly because of mounting disputes among nations.

For WTO to survive its current challenges and achieve its founding mandate, it requires a leadership acceptable to the widest consensus of members.

She has pledged to use her office, if elected, to bring the big feuding nations together while focusing interest in climate change and the fight against poverty.

Besides chairing the 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Conference, Amina has chaired WTO’s General Council, Dispute Settlement and Policy Review body, which place her in good standing to assume its leadership and reform it.

She has cast herself not only as an experienced person with inside knowledge of WTO, but also as one capable of steering it to a new perspective and a consensus builder who will encourage African perspectives and role of women in WTO.

She is confident her reform agenda would encourage convergence, dispute resolutions within WTO and negotiations as the best mechanism to solve trade disputes.

-The writer is Eldas MP and Jubilee Party coalition secretary

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World Trade Organisation UN Security Council International Monetary Fund
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