As the competition for the role of Director General of the World Health Organization gets under way, we have undoubtedly been left with 3 outstanding candidates, all of which boast commendable accolades and admirable achievements. Yet, one candidate shines above the rest.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, a parliamentarian from Ethiopia, has held two ministerial positions in his homeland, serving as Health Minister between 2005 and 2012, and more recently as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, terminating the role last year. Despite Ethiopia’s paramount challenges, Dr. Tedros has successfully transformed Ethiopia’s health system, effectively expanding quality care and healthcare access to tens of millions of Ethiopians. Dr. Tedros has served his country during testing times, acquiring skills in leadership, while demonstrating acute knowledge of, and commitment to, healthcare practice and systems.
On the international stage, Dr. Tedros has Chaired the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Board, and Co-Chaired the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board Additionally, Dr. Tedros holds a PHD in Community Health, and an MSc in Immunology of Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Tedros’ experience, knowledge, and insurmountable drive for change evidently stand him in impeccable stead in the race to lead the WHO. But what’s more, if Dr. Tedros becomes Director General of the WHO, he will be the first African in the organisation’s history to hold this title. In the 69 years of the WHO’s existence, its leadership has been held by individuals from across the globe: 3 Europeans, 2 Asians, 1 South American, and 1 North American have all had the privilege of heading this prestigious and hugely influential institution.
Africans are consistently underrepresented in international organisations and institutions yet continue to be overly subjected to interventions at the hands of the very institutions from which they are excluded. This trend must be broken.
Dr. Tedros’ vision of the WHO understands the challenges the world is facing, from a first-hand perspective. Globally, a plethora of new and previously unaddressed threats test our very existence: antimicrobial resistance, widespread humanitarian crises and an exploding population all present challenges for the years ahead, that must be dealt with effectively, and systematically, to the benefit of all.
It is my belief that Dr. Tedros presents an opportunity for change – for greater African inclusion on the international stage, and the symbolic shift away from Eurocentric and American-driven global politics. As the subject of more epidemics and health crises than any other continent, it seems obvious that African leaders must drive African change. Ebola, HIV/AIDS and Malaria are largely endemic to Africa, and maternal mortality outcomes on the continent are by far the worst in the world. It is time for African leadership to lead the way in countering the world’s most threatening health missions.
Dr. Tedros has proven himself as a leader, a diplomat, and an advocate, embodying the qualities, experience and vision that the WHO seeks and needs. It is my hope, and belief, that he will be given the opportunity to shine.