WTO urged to pick African as new chief

GENEVA (AFP) – As the World Trade Organization (WTO) prepares to search for a new director-general, it should commit to finally handing the top job to an African, a candidate for the post said.

Hamid Mamdouh, a former Egyptian diplomat, told AFP in an interview this week that African countries were determined to take the reins of the organisation for the first time.

“The African Union (AU) decided back in July 2019 that the next director-general of the WTO should be from Africa,” he said.

“It’s a strong sentiment,” said the 67-year-old, who spent more than 20 years in high-level WTO posts.

“Africa never held that position before and it’s time, because all other regions have occupied that position.”

Candidate for the Director General of the World Trade Organization Hamid Mamdouh gestures in front of the WTO headquarters in Geneva. PHOTO: AFP

Mamdouh, who also holds Swiss citizenship after living in the country for 35 years, is not the only African expected to bid for the job.

Nigerian Yonov Frederick Agah, a WTO deputy director-general, and Eloi Laourou, Benin’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, were also preselected by the AU in February for consideration.

The AU had been aiming to whittle the choice down to a single African candidate by July, well ahead of the initially scheduled kick-off date for a months-long election process in December.

But earlier this month, the WTO’s current chief, Roberto Azevedo of Brazil, suddenly announced his “personal decision” to step down on August 31 – a full year before his mandate expires.