The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is elated over the historic appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This appointment brings honour to Africa and shows how African people have positively impacted the world.
In the 25 years of the WTO’s existence, it will be the first time that the multinational organisation is led by a woman, let alone, that she hails from Africa. This calls for celebration, considering that woman make up fewer than ten percent of leaders worldwide, and behind this statistic lies a pattern of unequal access to power. However, we commend the WTO General Council’s unanimous backing for endorsing Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to this crucial position.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment comes at a time when the global trading system is faced with numerous challenges including supply chain disruptions, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising protectionism, and unilateralism, growing economic nationalism, the imposition of trade restrictions covering a substantial amount of international trade, as well as trust and credibility concerns among members. With her wealth of experience and spheres of influence, we are confident that she will reposition the organisation to play its expected role in the 21st Century global economy.
For her leadership to yield greater results, we appeal to member states to give her all the cooperation, support, and solidarity required to make the apex trade organisation a truly outstanding multilateral institution.
COSATU urges Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to have a special focus on Africa and the developing world, particularly during this time of economic recession, which workers continue to bear the brunt of. We also hope that the issue of inequality in terms of vaccine distribution and procurement will be resolved in the upcoming WTO General Council. We further hope that the proposal submitted by South Africa and India on COVID-19 related intellectual property (IP) rights to allow countries to manufacture vaccines in a timely and affordable manner will be welcomed without hesitation. We also hope Dr Okonjo-Iweala will support the implementation of the AfCFTA to smoothly take-off and contribute as a huge component of continental economic growth.
As the Harvard-educated and renowned economist takes up another onerous service task to the world and humanity, we hope her track record of integrity, diligence, and passion for the development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to humankind. COSATU wishes Dr Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavour.
Issued b COSATU
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