An apex regional business community has backed Ambassador Amina Mohamed’s candidature for the position of Director General at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The East African Business Council (EABC) said that this was buoyed by her promise to steer reforms towards eliminating trade barriers and implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement if selected.
This followed a virtual meeting by the Business Council that convened industry captains from the East African region to deliberate on deepening relations between the private sector in East Africa and the WTO.
Speaking from Geneva, Ambassador Amina said she would 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.”
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 per cent 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,” said Amb. Amina.
She noted that although trade rules are negotiated by governments of the WTO member states, it is the private sector that uses them to expand trade and investments.
“A dynamic East African 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,” said Amb. Amina.
During the meeting, EABC CEO, Dr. Peter Mathuki said, “We are confident that Amb. Amina 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.
The virtual engagement was attended by over 75 distinguished business leaders including Dr. Manu Chandaria, Founding Chairman of EABC, Nick Nesbitt, current Chairman of EABC, Dennis Kareru, Chair of Rwanda Hospitality Association, Simon Kaheru, Board Member of Uganda Manufacturers Association, and Hamad Hamad, Executive Director of Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce and Industries, among others.