End of open and merit-based recruitment, in fact there has never been one



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The Ethiopian Health Minister, who had been a party-government office until few months ago has been appointed to a top position by the international Roll Back Malaria Partnership. The News report read: “The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership Board is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu to the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).”

The selection according to the News report was “following an extensive global search and selection process supported by executive search firm Egon Zehnder.” What was the process like? Who did they compare him with?

Another member of the Ethiopian government, now advisor to the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Tedros Adhanom is poised to take a senior position within the World Health Organisation (WHO). Tedros has been a member of the core member of the Ethiopian ruling Front, the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), which is accused of scores of human rights abuses. He was also the Minister of Health for Ethiopia and until few months ago, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Members of the Ethiopian Diaspora and activists have been campaigning against Tedros election bid for the WHO leadership. What most activists did not know was who from the start encouraged Tedros to run to lead the WHO. Those are the makers and breakers, who chipped him in for the position and thus despite any protest, they may have little success in averting that. Among Tedros’ Wikipedia biographic details, this sheds light on his international network and contacts,

During his time as Minister of Health of Ethiopia, Ethiopia was the first country to sign compact with the International Health Partnership. He has served as Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (2007-2009), Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS (2009-2010) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2009-2011) and Co-Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (2005-2009). He also served as member of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) Board as well as the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board.

Dr. Tedros and Dr. Kesete are very close colleagues and as soon as Tedros was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he replaced Kesete in the Ministry of Health and now when Kesete was reshuffled, he gets appointed to lead the WHO. Mind you, Tedros was Chair of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (2007-2009). Not to forget also is that during their minister-ship, these ministers oversaw the national purchase of malaria kits, medicines, ARTs and many other important international medical contracts. Scratching backs.

Meritocracy defines individuals power ascension based on their talents and ability which measures their performance and records. Often times, we hear calls for a merit-based recruitment of individuals on the basis of their merit.

You hear your own friends and good wishers urging you to discard formal job application processes and find someone who can link you to someone powerful and who could do you a “favor.” We are an equal opportunity employer my foot.

Merit based employment has become a thing of the yesteryear unless one is vying for an extremely technical job but even in such jobs, networks are very important to get placement in the best department, office, region,  or receive the highest salary.

It is now very common to hear people say, you need to have good “networks”, “connections” or “contacts” to get the job you need or whatever you need in fact. It is true. Those of us who lived it, know it. Evidently, it is extremely difficult for an innocent graduate to get a job by simply applying for jobs, unless he/she knows someone in the organisation or his referees have existing links.

It is called corruption or nepotism in the developing world but “networking” in the developed world. Innocent graduates with the perfect skill and training are left jobless or work in a non-professional field, when many who do not qualify for the jobs are doing others jobs simply because they know the employer or they have contacts. This will destroy the world. It pushes us to look for contacts and networks, or worship people to help us secure the posts we need. This nepotistic network culture makes us do or give financial and valuable favors, gifts and contracts in order to get our children employed in their organisation.

How special are Dr. Tedros and Dr. Kesete to be candidates for this job among the many other African scholars, medical practitioners or policy makers? Especially, now that both of them are going to be working in almost two sister companies? What makes the many appointees working in international organisations and NGOs, receiving hefty salaries and benefits from the rest of us? Mostly, it is not their merit, it is their networks or the worldwide nepotism!