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Tigray Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (TiSC) as a Catalyst for University, Industry and Government Triangular Relationships

By M Gettaw,
Tigrai Online, Sept. 28, 2018

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As I was watching the inauguration ceremony of the 13th Congress of the TPLF, I really felt very emotional. The songs and drama that the very capable ‘Bahli Tigray’ and modern ‘Tigrigna’ singers presented were splendid and state-of-the-art (Congratulations to all!). I really appreciated the lyrics as well as melody of the songs and their message to celebrate the sacrifices made by the senior fighters and leaders of the TPLF was also second to none. The celebration of these public servants is well deserved. As they leave the leadership space to the youth, they deserve a welcoming and nurturing space for them to spend their life as productive and contributing senior citizens. These people have immense knowledge and experience that Tigray and its institutions could tap to. They could mentor a generation of leaders and strategists who could lead and transform Tigray and Ethiopia to a higher socio-economic and political status. They could also become catalysts in the development and fostering of the much needed triangular relationship between University, industry and Government Institutions.

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So, I started to search for model institutes that could be created within Tigray to host these deserving people. One fitting model institute is the Harvard Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness (HISC). I am sure there are others but I will use HISC as an example for my proposal.  The institute [https://www.isc.hbs.edu/] is within the Harvard Business School and its mission is to advance scholarship, advise leaders and policymakers, and develop practical, research-based frameworks in three broad areas, (i) the study of competition and its implications for company strategy; (ii) the competitiveness of nations, regions, and cities, (iii) The relationship between competition and society. These three areas are very relevant for Tigray and Ethiopia. So, I propose for the Business Colleges of the four universities in Tigray (Mekelle, Adigrat, Aksum and Raya) to consider for the formation of a Tigray institute of Strategy and Competition (TiSC). I am not saying it has to be created in all universities but any of them could take a lead in creating one and the others could share the cumulated knowledge and resources through different avenues. In fact, I am also aware that there was a mention (during the Global Tigray Scholars Conference) of the initiative to create a Tigray Policy and Research Institute (TPRI) which could be an independent body that could host these people.

I trust that such an institute could become an incubation place for strategic thinking and thinkers for Tigray, Ethiopia and beyond. While Harvard ISC had Professor Michael Porter who had been developing and refining the essential frameworks that explain how competition works and its implications for strategy in business, government, and society; Tigray had former PM Meles Zenawi who had been developing and refining frameworks and policies for the competitive advantage of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. In fact, Tigray has many of the senior leaders (political, military and security) who are retiring from Federal institutions who can contribute towards this TiSC.  I have listened to several interviews by the likes of General Samora Yenus, General Kinfe Dagnew, General Teklebirhan, General Tsadikan and others and their interviews clearly show that my proposition is very pragmatic.

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Another critically important contribution of these veterans could be in strengthening the much needed triangular relationship between University, industry and Government Institutions. These Veterans have been working in Government and Government owned industries in different capacities. That means, they have a clear understanding of the workings of these institutions and their immediate needs. Thus, they can be a key link in creating the connections and helping university professors to develop projects that respond to the needs of these institutions. They can play a unique role in bringing unique perspective and unique solutions to the weak link that exists between these three (University, industry and Government Institutions) big branches of society. As Porter said, thinking strategically is to think to be unique (Not necessarily to be the best) in whatever you do- business, public service or governance and I believe Tigray has a huge opportunity to be unique in this respect. These individuals and the institutionalization of their knowledge and experience base could become a sustainable way to transfer knowledge from generation to generation. As Porter said, competing to be unique, can be the basis of a sound strategy that leads to a positive-sum competition with multiple winners, defeating zero-sum players.

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