What next for Amina after failed WTO bid?

What you need to know:

  • The WTO confirmed what had been general knowledge since Monday that Ms Mohamed had lost the race to Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
  • Kenya has ratified the AfCTA and diplomats in Nairobi have routinely argued they will follow through to implement its requirements and that they support pan-African businesses.

A clash of ideas between the European Union’s policies and Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed’s proposals led to the abrupt ending of her campaign to head the World Trade Organisation. 

Ms Mohamed’s star crashed back to earth on Thursday after the WTO ended Kenya’s high hopes for one of their own to lead the global commercial regulator.

The bone of contention was whether Kenya should pursue trade agreements without following protocols of continental blocs.

The WTO confirmed what had been general knowledge since Monday that Ms Mohamed had lost the race to Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

David Walker, the New Zealand Permanent Representative to the WTO, said the two “secured the broadest and deepest support from the membership”. The race means that a woman will run the global trade arbiter for the first time in its history.

A diplomatic source in Geneva told the Nation that several reasons worked against Ms Mohamed, but the actual tiff arose from the view that Kenya may be sabotaging the European bloc by discussing a trade deal alone from Africa.

Bilateral trade agreement

“One reason was that there are already many East Africans in top organisations in Geneva,” the African diplomat said, referring to the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi from Kenya and compatriot Bashar Abdirahman Hussein, who heads the Universal Postal Union, also in Switzerland, but headquartered in Bern. The WTO has 164 members, but is not a UN agency.

“The second reason is Kenya’s desire to sign a bilateral trade agreement with the US, in spite of calls for it to be done through blocs such as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCTA), worried the EU because it invested heavily in the creation of the bloc,” he added.

Kenya has ratified the AfCTA and diplomats in Nairobi have routinely argued they will follow through to implement its requirements and that they support pan-African businesses.

 In 2019, Kenya lost out to Ghana in a bid to host the AfCTA secretariat. In her campaigns, Ms Mohamed claimed she didn’t see the US-Kenya deal as a danger to the AfCTA. But the EU is funding the Africa Trade Observatory, a programme that monitors the flow of goods and services to the tune of $4.7 million.

It will provide AfCTA members with data on cross-border trade for “sound monitoring of continental trade and evidence-based policy making”. If these reasons fell her, it could depict an EU that is pragmatic, especially since the bloc also negotiates bilateral agreements with other countries.

Both Kenya and Ms Mohamed were humble in defeat, saying it was a contest that was always going to produce winners and losers: “While we believe that our candidate, Ambassador Amina C. Mohamed, was the most qualified to steer this important Organisation, we accept that the process has moved on without her,” said Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

Pan Africanism

Ms Mohamed said: “I was honoured by the time, support and attention given by ministers and government officials from countries around the world. The consistent and clear message that I heard was about the importance of the WTO and the need for urgent reform.

I share these convictions and will do everything in my power to continue supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system in any way that I can.” Already, Kenya Thursday endorsed the Nigerian in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.

“In the next round we remind the membership that it was agreed that this would be Africa’s turn. Kenya therefore throws its firm, unwavering support behind Ngozi Iweala of Nigeria, wishes her the best and expects the international community to abide by this important  promise as the two candidates  proceed to the final round,” said Dr Omamo.




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