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By Adedapo Adesanya

The race for selecting the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has taken a new turn following the interest of Kenya in the position.

The latest information is that the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya, Mrs Amina Mohamed, has joined the list of those who want the juicy position, making her the sixth person to have shown interest.

A WTO official confirmed the nomination of the former foreign affairs minister late on Tuesday as the nomination window closes today, kickstarting the race for who will replace the outgoing WTO director-general, Mr Roberto Azevedo, the Brazilian diplomat who is stepping down one year early at the end of August.

“For Amina Mohamed, yes, we can confirm that we received her nomination from Kenya late yesterday,” the WTO official said.

The six candidates in the running are from Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria and South Korea.

These are South Korean Trade Minister, Mrs Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister, Mrs Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general, Mr Jesus Seade Kuri; former Nigerian foreign and finance minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egyptian former diplomat, Mr Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister, Mr Tudor Ulianovschi.

The Geneva-based organisation will be looking for a candidate that can steer reforms and negotiations in the face of rising economic protectionism, a deep recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing trade tensions, notably between the United States and China.

The incoming DG will also be in the forefront of a power tussle as the United States, which has threatened to leave the WTO, has blocked the organisation’s dispute settlement appeal system since December, and wants China moved up from the developing economies category, to rid it of certain privileges.

Mrs Mohamed, a former Kenyan ambassador to the WTO and the first woman to chair the WTO’s General Council in 2005, brings a gender balance to the nominations list as the third woman running.

Instead of an election, the procedure for selecting the next WTO boss relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn. A vote is possible as a measure of last resort, but that scenario has never occurred.

In 1999, when countries could not decide between two runners, both candidates each served a three-year term.

No African candidate has also led the 25-year old organisation. Past directors-general since the WTO was created in 1995 have seen three emerge from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America.

There is broad support for an African candidate and a woman since neither has headed the Geneva-based body in the past, sources following the process said.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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