Wamkele Mene: Face of African trade itegration
By Kamil Balogun
What does the emergence of the youthful Wamkele Mene as the pioneer Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA secretariat portend?
This is a question that many are asking following the emergence of the South African negotiator and diplomat as champion and lead driver of the ongoing landmark trade integration process in the continent.
Appointed at a close of a quite testy process that saw the continent’s prime economic gladiators, South Africa and Nigeria slugging it off in almost seven rounds of voting, Mene is making history as the first Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area
Wamkele Mene whpse twitter handle loudly proclaims that (@MeneWamkele) he is ‘Passionate about Africa’s development, trade law expert’ has his job cut out for him.
The former chief negotiator in the African Continental Free Trade Area for South Africa and a former trade diplomat at the World Trade Centre, he is now expected to lead the world’s largest free trade area through its very testy foundation stages.
To his credit, Mene has core competence in the fields of trade diplomacy, trade representation, government to government representation, investment, and resolution of investment disputes. Working from his new base at Accra, Ghana, he is expected to bring all of these skills and more to play as he leads the AFCFTA Secretariat in forging a common trade consensus that would guide intra-regional trade among the 55 nations that make up the African Union, AU.
Among others some of the already defined treaty objectives are cutting tariffs within the bloc, boosting trade and eliminating border barriers.
Holder of an LL.M in Banking Law and Financial Regulation from the London School of Economics and Political Science; an M.A. in International Studies & Diplomacy from the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London; and a B.A. Law from Rhodes University, Mene was in 2010, appointed Deputy Ambassador, South African Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He was later named the Chairman, Committee on International Trade in Financial Services at the World Trade Organisation.
Mene reportedly has extensive knowledge of trade diplomacy, trade representation, government to government representation, investment, and resolution of investment disputes.
The AfCFTA journey began when it was adopted and opened for signature on March 21, 2018, in Kigali, Rwanda. A little over a year later it had entered into force, and very precisely on May 30, 2019, when The Parliament of The Gambia became the 22nd nation to ratify its founding instruments.