Dr Jean Kaseya was announced the new Director General of Africa CDC at the African Union summit in February 2023. He was approved by African heads of state during the meeting in Addis Ababa. Currently, Africa CDC is making the transition from a technical institute of the African Union to a public health agency. Devex reports that this will empower it with greater “authority, flexibility, and speed” for the future.
Who is Dr Kaseya?
Dr Jean Kaseya is a Congolese national with more than 20 years’ experience in public health both in the Democratic Republic of Congo and internationally. As well as his medical qualification he holds a Master’s in Public Health from Henri Poincaré University in France. His experience includes service of UNICEF, Gavi, and WHO.
Dr Kaseya’s application was supported by Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe. He described his colleague as “strategic, with a great sense of leadership, proven technical expertise, and the political experience necessary” to execute the role.
The process of choosing a leader
Although many global health figures have congratulated Dr Kaseya across social media, The East African suggests that the announcement came as “the epilogue of a long secret diplomatic struggle”. Whatever this involved, we gather that around 180 candidates were considered for the post, shortlisting to three, including Kenya Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, currently Acting Director.
The recruitment process took over a year, from a call for applications to interviews, recommendations, and ratification.
The role and plans for the future
Devex suggests that the position is a “four-year contract” based in Addis Ababa, with a “probationary period” of one year. The difference between Dr Kaseya’s role and the previous head of Africa CDC is allegedly “more power with the expectation of less internal AU bureaucracy to navigate”. This additional power is exemplified in his power to convene the heads of state on issues of public health.
Dr Kaseya will report to the AU chairperson with the task of guiding the agency towards greater health security in Africa. Dr Kaseya shared an insight into his intentions for the role with Devex, which reports that he will strive for a “new management culture” in the organisation through what he calls “The New Deal”. Furthermore, he will continue to implement Africa CDC’s New Public Heath Order, launched by predecessor Dr John Nkengasong.
In his application, Dr Kaseya identified the need for a “technically strong Africa CDC” that comprises “leading experts” and efficiently uses funds. Overcoming “cumbersome” processes and poor management will be crucial to his vision, as he noted that Africa CDC used only 39% of its operational budget from donors in 2020.
Dr Kaseya hopes to have conversations with advisors and publish a strategic plan within 100 days of assuming his new role, aiming to “initiate decisions to quickly correct deficiencies and restore the organisation’s credibility”.
Congratulations and messages of support
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, tweeted that she looks forward to “strengthening our partnership”.
“His years of experience working in international development and health will support the continued growth of Africa CDC.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, echoed the “congratulations”, stating “I and my colleagues at WHO look forward to continuing to partner with Africa CDC under your leadership”.
What do you hope to see from Dr Kaseya’s early days in the role, and what would you encourage him to consider as he settles into his position?
For more on the importance of strengthening Africa’s global health framework join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April.