Born on 19 July 1965 in Boloso Sore district of the Wolayita Zone Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR), Hailemariam Desalegn is a former lecturer and dean of Arba Minch University.
In 1988, Hailemariam was awarded a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Addis Ababa University. He subsequently worked as a graduate assistant in the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute (now Arba Minch University). After two years of working in this capacity, he won a scholarship to Tampere University of Technology in Finland, where he earned a master’s degree in sanitation engineering. Upon his return to Ethiopia, he served in different academic and administrative capacities, including the dean of the Water Technology Institute, for 13 years. In between, he also earned an MA in Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University, California, US.
He joined the Southern Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM) in the mid 1990s. In the mid 1990s, he became seriously involved in politics as member of the EPRDF and became the deputy president of the SNNPR.
Hailemariam became President of the Southern Region in 2001 when Abate Kisho, then President of the Region, was put behind bars on corruption allegations. He served in that position until 2006.
Hailemariam is from the Wolayta ethnic group of Ethiopia, an Omotic community which forms the principal population group in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region. He is also the first Prime Minister of Ethiopia who is a member of the Ethiopian Apostolic denomination.
In 2010 after the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won 99 percent of the seats in the Parliament, Hailemariam was appointed Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is the first politician to assume a top position from among the party operatives who have not taken part in the armed insurrection.
His party the SEPDM is the least influential among the coalition parties that make up EPRDF.
Hailemariam is father of three daughters, two of them pursuing higher education in local universities. His wife Roman Tesfaye is a Masters degree holder in economics and works in the United Nations Development Program office in Addis Ababa.
Hailemariam was elected to chair EPRDF as of September 15, 2012. He has served in the government of Ethiopia as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2010. Following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on 20 August 2012, Hailemariam was named acting Prime Minister and will remain in the position until new elections in 2015.
His service terms have been as follows:
Public Offices: Vice President of the SNNPR (2000–2002);
President of the SNNPR (2002–2005);
Member of the House of People’s Representatives (2005–present);
Social Affairs Special Advisor to the PM, then Public Mobilization & Participation Special Advisor to the Prime Minister (2005–2008);
Government Chief Whip, with a Ministerial portfolio (2008–2010).
Party Posts: Member of the Executive Committee of the EPRDF and the SEPDM (2000–present);
Chairman of the SEPDM (2002–present);
Deputy Chairman of the EPRDF (since Sept 2010).