By Mike Ssegawa
I am not an expert anything. I largely comment about impressions and every time I visit a new place, I scan for something I have not seen elsewhere. And for my personal journal, I enter into it what I see, feel, hear, and touch before reading anything written or said about the place.
I have been in Addis Ababa before. But that was long time ago. I was here for a year between 2000 and 2001. I was staying in one of the most beautiful little towns I have ever seen, Debrezeit, about 40km south of Addis Ababa. What made Debre Zeit tick was its deep and fabulous crate lakes. I don’t remember how many for now, but there were more than five, spread across the different directions of same town. During the evenings, children and some youth would go to the lakes to swim. It was one of the few things that occupied these young souls after school that occupied them for less than three hours a day.
My colleagues and I would visit some families who were always more than glad to receive us, and prepared for us some buna (coffee) as we talked about the pride of the country, the long distance athletes such as Haile Gebrselassie, who was at time a world champion for every race he participated in. Along the road, we would be mobbed by children, who were eager to speak to us in English. Some of them were quite funny, referring to us as “Africans” meaning they were not!!! But well, to summarize what I saw around Ethiopia as I visited several parts of the country, including Nazareth, Mekele, Adigrat, Sheshemani, among other parts, was a people, with little on themselves but loved their country so much, dearly.
It is almost the opposite today like what I have seen today. Even outside my window, I can count upto six building rising into the sky. Since I arrived here, I have seen a lot of positive energy in the eyes of people I meet on the streets and the people I see in and around my hotel. A concrete jungle is sprouting upwards in different parts of the city. It is like everything is exploding with positivism.
Bet ween now and the time I was here 16 years ago, Ethiopia has completed a dam producing about 5000kw of electricity, there are talks of industrial parks – including the biggest in Africa located in Awasa. At Awasa industrial park the Ethiopian government expect to generate $1 billion a year. Tomorrow I expect to visit the Eastern Industrial park where small scale manufacturers have turned a little miracle on the economy of Ethiopia, and later will take a light railway which is the talk of Addis Ababa visitors.
This workshop, I should tell you, has been sponsored by Oxfam International and Africa-China Reporting Project.
Issues of governance in countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, are always raised whenever their economic milestones are mentioned. In the same couple of days we shall be discussing what that means, and if the development and democracy are the new cliché for what came first between the egg and chicken! At least that’s some of the things that popped at dinner while talking with Dr Yoon Jung Park from Georgetown University and Mr Gedion Jalata from Oxfam International. And for now, Ethiopia is following the development model, and its population seems to enjoy the benefits.
On Ethiopian Airlines between Entebbe and Addis, I read an article in the inflight magazine, Selamta. The article was titled Ethiopia: An emerging manufacturing hub and a model for Africa. It was marked ADVERTORIAL on top. It was however not cleared who paid for it. However I read some awesome statistics that I would like to share with you.
It said Ethiopia received $3.2 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) last year according to the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which was a 46% increase from the previous year (2015), making the country the second largest destination for FDI among the least developed countries. The article also predicts that Ethiopia will be the “fastest growing nation in 2017”. It goes on to mention among super brands with workshops making clothes from Ethiopia to include Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. By the time I landed in the once broken country, which has gone through wars, dictatorships, and hunger as made famous by the song Heal the World featuring the late Michael Jackson and other USA stars, you start to believe that it is possible to get Africa out of hopelessness, poverty, disease, hunger, and other things that hold us back.
I however cannot be sure if it is the Ethiopian attitude exhibited at world marathon and long distance championships that they are entitled to be winning which is winning this one for them. The can-do-it attitude can take you miles. If other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, etc have achieved success and betterment for their people’s lives, that story can be duplicate in Africa. It is a tenacious marathon, which requires an attitude, a can-do-it attitude.