2020 has turned out to be a unique harvest and fruitful year for Nigeria as the country commits to the final lap to add Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the list of its citizens elected to head major international economic development and trade organisations this year. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari received Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in Abuja few days ago and assured the former Nigerian Finance and Foreign Minister and Ex-World Bank Managing Director that he would do all within his power to ensure that she became the Director-General of World Trade Organisation. Two Nigerians have been elected already this year to head top multilateral organisations.
On the 14th of June 2020 in Cairo, Egypt, shareholders of African Export-Import Bank, Afreximbank, voted and re-appointed Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah as President of the Pan-African multilateral financial institution for a second 5-year term. Afreximbank President Benedict Oramah Afreximbank is charged with financing and promoting intra-and extra-African trade. The bank was established in October 1993 and is owned by African governments, the African Development Bank and other African multilateral financial institutions as well as African and non-African public and private investors.
Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah first assumed the position of President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Afreximbank on 21st September 2015. He was previously the bank’s Executive Vice-President in charge of Business Development and Corporate Banking from October 2008. He joined Afreximbank as Chief Analyst in 1994 and was promoted to the position of Senior Director, Planning and Business Development in 2007.
Prior to joining Afreximbank, he was an Assistant Research Manager at the Nigerian Export Import Bank from 1992. Prof. Oramah holds M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics, obtained in 1987 and 1991 respectively, from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He had earlier received a B.Sc. degree, also in agricultural economics, from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1983. Following on Oramah’s re-election was that of Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina as President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, on 27th August 2020. 60-year-old Adesina was unanimously elected for a second five-year term by the Board of Governors of the Bank during their 55th annual meetings, winning 100% of votes of all regional and non-regional members of the bank in an election held electronically at the virtual annual general meeting of the bank.
Akinwumi Adesina Adesina’s re-election did not come on a platter of gold because although he was the sole candidate for the AfDB presidency, there were forces who were being spurred on to oppose his candidature because of some phantom allegations of gross misconduct and abuse of office. But Nigerians and the Nigerian government stood by him and he was cleared of all the allegations. During her visit to President Buhari in Abuja yesterday, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala received the assurance that Nigeria will “push, push until you win”, according to a statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.
President Buhari said the former minister deserved more support to get the top job because of her profile and diligence in serving Nigeria and the world, assuring her that, “We will do all that we can to ensure that you emerge as the Director-General of WTO, not only because you are a Nigerian, but because you are a hardworking Nigerian. You deserve this”. Indeed, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s profile is intimidating. She has been the Board Chairperson of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, since 1st January 2016. She has twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, most recently between 2011 and 2015 – a role that encompassed the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy. In 2006, she served as Foreign Affairs Minister. She has also held several key positions at the World Bank, including as Managing Director, and serves on the boards of Twitter and Standard Chartered Bank PLC.
In 2013, she was elected Chairperson of the Governing Board of African Risk Capacity, a specialised agency of the African Union established to help African governments improve their capacity to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters. Okonjo-Iweala and Buhari yesterday She holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and Ph.D in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has honorary degrees from over a dozen universities worldwide.
Many Nigerians and indeed, African and ECOWAS leaders have also been credited with pushing for her election as WTO Director-General and names that have been mentioned and confirmed by Okonjo-Iweala include the immediate past ECOWAS Chairman, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and President Alhassan Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean’s Ms Yoo Myung-Hee are the two remaining candidates contesting for the top position of the World Trade Organisation. It will be the first time WTO will be headed by a woman.
• Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.