Africa: Kenyan Candidate for WTO Top Job Pledges to Double Intra-Africa Trade

Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan Cabinet minister who is a candidate for the position of Director General at the World Trade Organisation.
11 September 2020

Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan candidate for the position of Director General at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has promised to advance an open trading system once given the mandate.

She made this promise while addressing a virtual meeting with East African Community business leaders this week. Mohamed is the only candidate from the region for the WTO top job.

The regional business community has expressed confidence in the candidature of Mohamed, buoyed by her promise to steer reforms towards eliminating trade barriers and implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement if selected.

The virtual meeting which took place on Wednesday was convened by the East African Business Council (EABC), which brought together industry captains from the region to deliberate on deepening relations between the private sector in East Africa and WTO.

Speaking from Geneva, Mohamed told the meeting that once given the mandate, she will push for a vibrant multi-lateral trading system to boost Africa's trade.

"If I was selected, I would be a strong advocate for an open trading system. I'd also be a leader in reforming the system and particularly in recovering the economy from the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, businesses in African countries currently face higher tariffs when they export within Africa than outside the continent.

"If we eliminated the current overall average tariffs of 6.1 percent in Africa, we would actually double intra-Africa trade among African countries, from 15% to 30%. If we also eliminate some of the pressing tariff barriers, intra-Africa trade will significantly improve," she added.

Amina noted that although trade rules are negotiated by Governments of WTO member states, it is the private sector that uses them to expand trade and investments.

"A dynamic East Africa community with an active private sector will ensure that the region benefits significantly from the World Trade System but also the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)," she stressed.

The EABC CEO, Dr. Peter Mathuki said, "We are confident that in her reform agenda at WTO, the voice of the African private sector shall be articulated and heard, with a focus on deepening engagement between the private sector and the global body."

The selection process of the WTO Director-General is now in the third phase where WTO members are consulted to narrow down on the candidate to receive consensus support.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

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