Three former diplomats from Africa have been shortlisted for the final pick to head the Secretariat of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement in Accra, Ghana.

The exercise which is expected to end this weekend February 9, has no Ghanaian in the finalists despite the country hosting the secretariat for what is billed to become the most ambitious trade area.

The successful candidate is expected to begin work from March this year in Accra, four months prior to the full implementation of the agreement.

In all, about 121 applications were received for the topmost position for the Agreement.

Two Ghanaians who made it during the application process could not advance after the second screening process that brought the number down to 30 earlier in the week.

The three finalists are Cecilia Akintomide from Nigeria who served as a former Vice president of the African Development Bank and also as General Secretary of the bank. Aside from the diplomatic duty, Cecilia is a practising lawyer in Lagos state.

Next is the 40-year-old South African Wamkele Mene who served as the Head of Mission to the World Trade Organisation for his country, South Africa.

The third finalist comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Faustin Luanga.

He has over 20 years’ experience dealing with diplomatic and economic relations both national and international.

Luanga has also been instrumental in the drafting of the continental free trade agreement as the country’s representative on the board. This adds to his experience as a Senior Economist at the World Trade Organisation.

His last official assignment was in the Presidency as the Economic Advisor to President Joseph Kabila.

It is clear that all three have great experience on continental trade and diplomacy but the final decision falls on the Heads of State of the African Union who are in a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The selection will be made and an official announcement will be issued by the Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Albert Muchanga on Sunday, February 9.

With the credentials of the finalists, one may consider Nigeria and South Africa being the biggest economies in Africa and what they bring on board as General Secretary of the administrative office.

However, Nigeria is yet to ratify the agreement which some analyst fears may be used against the candidate from Nigeria – that is if ratification is being added as criteria.

Luanga from DRC has a close advantage due to the role he played in the promulgation of the Articles for the Agreement and DRC being one of the strong advocates of AfCFTA from the East African bloc.

Ghana is losing out in the Secretary-General position but that will certainly not be the end of the road for the country because it is expected that other portfolios that will be by appointment and hosting the secretariat will emerge.

Story by Ebenezer Sabutey, Joy Business