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Wamkele Mene: Meet Young South African Diplomat who Drives PAPSS’ Implementation

Wamkele Mene

The Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat, Wamkele Mene will meet with the Nigerian fintech community in Lagos on September 25, 2020 at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island.

Mene, who was sworn in as first ever Secretary General (SG) of AfCFTA in March 2020, has been meeting all  critical stakeholders in Abuja since September 21.

The 42-year-old Mene is a top trade diplomat, who until his election to lead the AfCFTA’s secretariat, has worked as South Africa’s head of mission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

As his country’s head of mission at WTO, Mene negotiated trade issues on behalf of South Africa at the global forum where the rules of international trade are set, and also served as South Africa’s chief negotiator in AfCFTA negotiations.

However, Mene only emerged as the first head of the AfCFTA’s secretariat after seven rounds of voting by African heads of state and government – a typically un-African Union process, the Union having always favoured consensus over voting.

You may read: AfCFTA Engages Fintech Community in Lagos on Pan African Payment and Settlement System

Mene defeated Cecilia Akintomide, a Nigerian, and Faustin Luanga of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to clinch the coveted position. Although Mene’s name was at the top of the list of three finalists, penciled down by an AU panel of African trade ministers tasked with the responsibility of cutting down a list of 121 applicants for the key continental post, Nigeria and DRC refused to withdraw their candidates, which would have seen him emerged unopposed.

Mene, who won over two-third of the total votes cast to defeat his two fellow contenders for the post, will oversee the implementation of the AfCFTA and the entire day-to-day operations of the AfCFTA secretariat, whose headquarters will be based in Accra, Ghana; the secretariat will become operational as early as March, 2020.

Before becoming head of South Africa’s permanent mission to WTO, between 2010 and 2015, Mene served as deputy ambassador at South Africa’s mission to WTO.

Between 2013 and 2014, Mene was chair of WTO’s Committee on International Trade in Financial Services.