Life is a mixed bag; and Ethiopia can’t be an exception. Talk to friends, relatives, RIDE drivers – almost anybody for that matter. There is uneasiness about the future, indeed about the tomorrow of Ethiopia. Reasons abound. There is the unfinished & costly business of Tigray, the case of marauding OLF/SHANE, ethnicity and religion being used to incite violence, hooliganism working in cahoot with crooked police, unprecedented corruption at the highest levels, rampant inflation, shortage of for-ex that shut down industries, the precarious Wolkaitt issue, arbitrary arrests and disappearances, West’s perplexing anti-Ethiopia stance and a receding popular support for a leader that brought much promise.
The list, indeed, is exhausting and might even push some to lose hope in their country. But it is our Ethiopia, our country and we can’t surrender to transient challenges. In the maze of challenges we must find it in our heart to look for enduring positives.
Following my recent trip, I saw promising traits and trends which are bound to spur Ethiopia to a new but immunized beginning. No, I’m not talking about the mostly unproductive debt/corruption financed buildings. Not talking about the heavily import-dependent “converting” industries. As much as it’s a game changer and national pride, I’m not even talking about GERD.
I’m talking about human capital, the most critical and enduring wealth of a nation. I see a new generation of industrious Ethiopians vying to succeed in earnest. A generation of hustlers, wheelers and dealers which has little appetite for cultural taboos. And it is a good thing! This generation has embraced technology like there is no tomorrow, it is aggressive and displays “at-any-cost” attitude which is perhaps too much for my taste but a vitally necessary trait to be a winner in a cut-throat global environment.
You will find them in trendy Addis Cafes and lounges intently discussing business; in Shanghai, Istanbul, Mumbai, Bangkok hunting for opportunities. You will also find them in Afar nurturing cash crops, in industrial parks producing tetra-packed consumables. Just walk the isles of Queen supermarket or Fresh Corner, for example. You will be pleasantly surprised to find a variety of tetra-packed consumables manufactured in Ethiopia, helping the import substitution effort.
As a former Ethiopian Industry executive, my eyes scour for other enduring subtleties. Craft level has advanced with the advent of trained and educated workforce joining the lucrative construction and manufacturing industry. Gone are the days when everybody wanted to be an office worker which pays next to nothing nowadays. That’s why many office workers have turned into traders and brokers on the side. Talking about craft level, one can’t fail to mention the role Chinese craftsmen played in transferring technic and technology to our workforce. Better quality products and enhanced levels of esthetics are becoming commonplace.
Yes, despite the gloom and doom that envelops us following a sad incident somewhere, Ethiopia will find its way out of this rather no-war no-peace conundrum. I have high hopes in the young generation.
This is the generation that is building lasting stake in Ethiopia. Therein lies the secret, develop a middle class with enough stake in the country and you’ll have stability. Only the youth is capable of making win-win deals and charting new directions free of ethnic and religious shenanigans. The day of the antediluvian politicians needs to be over.
Yilma Adamu is Former GM OF Ethiopian Printing Corporation, National Leather & Shoe Corporation & Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs)
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