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The Making of Tigrai East African Giant

By Sisay A. Teklu
Development and Business Consultant
Tigrai Online June 25, 2020

One who visit the town of Aksum definitely, has to raise questions and issues seeking more information to learn what happened in Tigrai before 2000 years. Why is Tigrai the only place in Sub- Saharan Africa that was capable to have its own letter, number, currency, written language and huge traces of engineering and medicinal knowledge?

How did the kings learn to administer not only places in the present Ethiopia and Eritrea but also vast area of Africa including the Middle East? How did they learn to build the huge Aksum obelisks, build irrigation dams, engaged in import and export trade, mint gold and silver while many countries in Europe and North America were not even traced?

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The answers to those and similar questions are not easy and beyond the scope of this paper, however, the then available human capital undoubtedly, was successful not only in identifying important development and social issues or problems around them but also capable to think differently and creatively; an evidence of their unique talent and skill that impacted Africa and the Middle East in general and Ethio–Eritrean  language, culture, history and religion in particular.

Betseferena – Relying on Human Capital and local Capabilities

Betseferena became popular word in Tigrai during the liberation struggle. For TPLF, the most important resource in any endeavor was its unshakable belief and leadership capability of mobilizing its human resource. It appreciates the necessity of all resources but puts its members and the people of Tigrai over and above all other resources. This was named betseferena.

During the 17 years struggle, the TPLF, didn’t get material or moral support neither from the West nor from the East. Unlike the Eritrean liberation fronts, the oil rich countries in the Middle East didn’t have a purpose to support the organization. Therefore, for TPLF the motto Betseferena was an objective reality that focuses on the effective and efficient deployment and utilization of all available resources in general and its human capital in particular.  

From the above experience, one can clearly deduce Tigrai’s unique potential on its human capital to bring change and continues improvement across its private and public entities. What is needed

going forward is, designing and implementation of a system that gives its human capital in general and the intellectual in particular to be at the center in order to bring continues change and improvement at each and every entity.  

In Tigrai, mobilizing the critical development ingredient, human capital specifically, the intellectual must be doable, but not easy. This doable claim must aim to put the Tigryan intellectuals to be the best in East Africa capable to establish the best entities in East Africa.

Ethiopia - the East African Giant Economy -

The past 27 years (as customarily said), was a time of remarkable political, social and economic changes in Ethiopia. During this period, Ethiopia, in its history was able to sustain an eye browsing change and development. Unlike advocates of the Unitary and other political groups fabricated claim, the performance of the overall economy speaks for itself.  

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An annual growth of more than 10% was sustained for more than a decade. This rapid and broad based growth was more than double the sub-Saharan average growth registered. During the same period, annual budget increased from $10bln to $90bln, PPP increased from $1000 to $2200, life expectancy from 42 years to 68 years, absolute poverty declined from 48% to 23.4% and energy supply increased from 400MW to 4000MW , among others.

In less than two decades, Ethiopia became the Giant East-African economy. The country has lined up among the fastest growing economy both in Africa and the World rushing to become middle income economy using only, pertinent policy instruments and workable development strategy. The climax of achievements, success, national strength, confidence and unity of purpose among citizens was believed to be behind the final decision to kickoff the Grand Renaissance Dam by the late Prime Minster - Melese Zenawi.  

In Tigrai, before 1991, the urban - rural naming was simply symbolic with minimal urban characteristic features. Now, there are so many big towns in the region other than Mekelle. Tigrai that had only, one floor mill before 1991, now, has a number of factories and business  organizations including Mesfin Engineering, Messobo cement, Sheba Tannery, Addis Pharmaceutical, Almeda Textile, Trading and construction companies, transport and agricultural establishments, banking and insurance, etc. Tigrai, that didn’t administer one 12+ 1 institute is now administering four Universities, Nursing, Agricultural, Technical and Teachers college.

It is important to note what it takes to establish a manufacturing plant with almost zero background in Tigrai. What it takes to conduct project identification, project feasibility study, implementation and administration of a number of huge and complex contracts using the human capital available in Tigrai. Who knew what technology supply was in 1994/5 in the whole Tigrai; while the broad based name for any type of intellectual was simply teacher (Memeher)? Thus, the required hard work, thinking to design and implement the pioneer public institutions and business organizations that are now pillars in Tigrai was tremendous that required an active involvement of the few hard working and devoted Tigryan intellectuals.  

The people of Tigrai and the TPLF in the past 27years, proved their capability to bring change and development in Ethiopia in general and in Tigrai in particular. The current generation is not only proud and appreciative of what happened in the past that coined Tigrai and Ethiopia before 2000 years. It also proved its capability to attain remarkable socio-economic developments in less than two decades in the 21st century.

Connecting the dots

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The people of Tigrai has endowed immense tangible and intangible attributes from the Aksumite civilization. Tracing back this marvelous civilization and an association with its World class wonders is still positively impacting the present Tigrai confidence to set and achieve goals.  

Similarly, during the liberation struggle, TPLF and the people of Tigrai decided to change the future of Tigrai relying on its people in general and its human capital and local capabilities in particular is still positively influencing the attitude of Tigryans.   

During the last three decades, Tigrai was able to witness its capabilities of mobilizing its human capital and local resources. There are observable changes and improvements. However, the Tigrai region has a long-way to go. Poverty, unemployment, poor public administration and public resources management are prevalent through out the region.

Therefore, “connecting dots” of our Aksumite heritage, Betseferna - values of the 17 years struggle, experience of eye opening development endeavors during the last three decades need to be connected with an intervention program that shall be instrumental to making all organizations (entities) in Tigrai to be more effective and improved on continues basis  is a strategy second to non.

The intervention must be effective and efficient human capital mobilization and utilization focusing on the intellectual so that all Tigraian entities (organizations) can be the best in East Africa administered by the best intellectuals in East Africa.

Finally, the TPLF leadership mainly, was behind the making of Ethiopia to become the East African Giant economy. The policies, directions, leadership attributes, talents, skills and knowledge that made the country to reach at this apex are available and handy in Tigrai. Therefore, the making of Tigrai to be East African Giant is only, a replication of the same taking into consideration current changes and ongoing developments.

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