State defends Kenyans working at Africa CDC

Kenya has 39 nationals working at the continental health agency based in Addis Ababa. They were seconded by AU.

In Summary

• Critics accused the Africa CDC of hiring at least half of its workers from Kenya and Ethiopia yet it is supported by 54 AU member states.

•This ratio has since reduced because the body has hired more staff, mostly from other countries, in the last one year.

Foreign affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing'oei.
PLACEMENT: Foreign affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing'oei.
Image: File

Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended Kenyans working at the Africa Centers for Disease Control against critics who questioned their numbers.

Kenya has 39 nationals working at the Addis Ababa-based health agency.

The ministry said the Kenyan nationals were all seconded to the African Union, which hosts the CDC, by partner institutions on request.

“At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the African Union sought the assistance from Kenyan medical professionals in order to contain the pandemic,” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing’oei told The Star in a statement.

He was responding to accusations that the organisation had about half of its workers from Kenya and Ethiopia yet it is supported by 54 AU member states.

Sing’oei said this is incorrect. He said Africa CDC has a provision for 340 seconded staff and only 39 are Kenyan and they were all hired by merit.

“Kenya is not the most staff-intensive country, but it is a distant third, with two member states accounting for 59 and 52 staff members respectively,” the PS said. 

The Africa CDC employs workers on regular contracts and short-term contracts. About 90 per cent of all workers are on short-term contracts.

The PS said there is no Kenyan who holds a regular position at the organisation.

The Star on May 14 reported that the Africa CDC was criticised after an audit report, which was finalised in March this year, showed nearly half of workers coming from Kenya and Ethiopia.

This ratio has since reduced because the agency has hired more staff, mostly from other countries, in the last year.

The audit was ordered by director general Jean Kaseya, who joined the organisation in April last year.

Sing'oei assured Kenyans they would not be disadvantaged in future jobs. Currently, the AU has approved 155 regular quota positions at the Africa CDC.

“Recruitment for these positions is currently underway, and Kenyans are not exempt from applying,” the PS said.

“The process of secondment to the Africa CDC is transparent and rigorous and is conducted in stringent compliance with the AU rules and regulations by partner institutions. The partner institutions are solely responsible for the remuneration of all seconded staff.”

He praised Kenyan medical professionals, saying they continue to assist in the continent's medical and health crises.

“The medical professionals have consistently demonstrated professionalism in their performance of their duties over the years. This was evident during the global Covid-19 pandemic and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where Kenyan medical professionals were present to provide assistance in the management, containment, halting and reversing of the pandemic. This was at a time when most countries remained reluctant to release their medical professions to support global efforts,” he said.

Since 2019, the deputy head of Africa CDC was the celebrated Kenyan global health specialist Dr Ahmed Ouma, who also acted as interim director general until Kaseya was hired.

Dr Ouma left the organisation in March but only candidates from 32 AU member states – excluding Kenya – were allowed to apply for the deputy director general position.

In a Linkedin post in March, he said his departure was because of “personal” reasons.

“It has not been an easy decision considering my love and commitment to Africa, but the time has come for me to pursue my professional and personal growth elsewhere. I also confirm that my decision is not in any way related to, nor motivated by, any of the ongoing recruitment processes within Africa CDC or the African Union,” he said.

The organisation is tripling its workforce to more than 900 workers. Kenyans had feared they would be disadvantaged in the hiring.

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