Three Africans will fight it out with five other candidates for the World Trade Organisation director-general’s position.
Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Egypt’s Abdel Hamid Mamdouh have launched their campaigns, which officially began on July 8.
Also in the race is Briton Liam Fox, who served as International Trade Secretary under former prime minister Theresa May.
Others are South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovschi.
The Africans vying for the coveted position have formidable credentials. Okonjo-Iweala is a former finance minister and managing director at the World Bank.
Mamdou is a former envoy and senior official in the WTO while Amina Mohamed, a Cabinet Secretary in Kenya chaired the 2015 WTO ministerial meeting in Nairobi.
The race takes place amid setbacks for the much-hailed African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The agreement, which was expected to create the world’s largest barrier-free trade zone, has not been launched as scheduled.
It was expected to start working on July 1 but the coronavirus crisis threw a spanner in the works.
AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene, who was sworn in on March 19 said there was no option but to postpone the project.
He said there is need to give governments space to address the unprecedented public health crisis.
Earlier in the year, an official of the UN Economic Commission for Africa said the African Union Commission proposed January 1, 2021 as the launch date.
WTO boss Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil announced in May his intention to quit by August 31, a year before his second four-year term.
Azevêdo has been viewed in some quarters as having presided over a dysfunctional WTO.
Considering the massive figures representing global trade – a staggering $25 trillion in 2018 – it is not surprising that the WTO head is a powerful figure.
Since the WTO was created in 1995, three of its directors-general were from Europe, while one came from Oceania, Asia and South America each.
Africa fancies its chances this time, though there is no regional rotation principle.
Unfortunately, Africa has failed to agree on a single candidate.
That notwithstanding, the Nigerian and Egyptian contenders claim to have AU support.