What will Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO Appointment mean for Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)?

Written by Toyin Umesiri, Founder Nazaru, Trade with Africa Network, Trade with Africa Business Summit, AfCFTA Roundtable

This was one of the key questions a Journalist representing a major African Government News Agency asked me yesterday during a media interview. As I responded to his questions, I also felt I needed to pen my thoughts for my community about this very important moment in history.

If you have not already heard the big news you are living under the rock - The World Trade Organization (WTO) has appointed its next Director General (DG) who happens to be African and Female – both of these descriptive words carry so much meaning for Women all over the world and for the African continent; a region home to over 1 billion people.

To say her appointment has raised hopes on the continent would be an understatement. The region has been clamoring for a transition from Foreign Aid to Trade dominance and to them the question is whether her appointment would help shift them further in that direction and what type of transformation (if any) they should expect.

To be clear Africans need to remind themselves that Mrs. Ngozi is not going to WTO just to serve Africa but to serve the world. The truth is that African nations would make demands on her and the WTO. They will pull on her support to advance trade in the region which in a way is good because Africa has yet to secure maximum benefit from the institution or leverage all the negotiating facilities it presents.

Trade is about wealth distribution and Africa is still largely underdeveloped however the stage is set for the region to extract maximum benefits from not only WTO but other institutions that focuses on advancing trade and economic development.

Here are some of the agenda that I would put on Mrs. Ngozi's plate as she resumes her new position on March 1st:

  1. With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) implementation already in flight, Mrs. Ngozi’s office must prioritize its advancement and support its implementation fully
  2. Trade Facilitation must be demystified for Africans and adequate training and resources deployed to jumpstart export development in the region
  3. African Union as a central body would need to now play a unique role as a “coordinator of demands” in future engagement at WTO. As questions are raised such as “what does Africa need/want?” a central body would need to facilitate such otherwise coordinating directly with the 55 countries would be more challenging to engage
  4. Market Entry Development strategy for Africa’s Small Medium Enterprises fully activated and deployed because this would be the game changer for the region.
  5. Women and Youth Empowerment in Africa would be a great enabler for economic development and should be key for the World Trade Organization as well

Africans must be ready to do the necessary work to partner and leverage resources that I believe no doubt would become more accessible under Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Imeala’s leadership as DG of the World Trade Organization. When such opportunity are presented and passed – all Africa must ensure to score the goal.

Mrs. Ngozi would need us to show the world that we are ready to take our place on the world stage and to show the rest of the world the BEST of Africa – from our wines to our fabrics to our rich oils and our manufactured product will compete with the rest of the world. Welcome to the new order where Africa is a roaring lion.... Africa is the future and the next economic frontier. The stars will continue to align to make it come sooner rather than later

For more information watch both the Keynote address on AfCFTA and AfCFTA Roundtable that I hosted below.

H.E. Albert Muchanga - Africa Union

The AfCFTA Roundtable: Opportunities for Africans, Investors and Diaspora #africa -

  • Host: Toyin Umesiri , CEO Nazaru LLC.
  • Speakers:
  1. Dr. Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist on Africa
  2. Komi Tsowou, Economist at United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  3. Jean Bertrand Azapmo - Principal Adviser to the African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry
  4. Prof. Landry Signé - Senior Director & Distinguished Fellow Brookings Institution
  5. Shakira Motan - Trade Commissioner, South African Consulate - Chicago