By Mike Nega
Tigrai Online August 31, 2013
I just came from one month vacation from the great country, Ethiopia. This was my first trip to the country after 11 years. It was a surprise that Ethiopia has gone a great distance in building its infrastructures. The cities and neighborhoods I knew before are completely transformed. I believe a decade is a very short period of time because my son who was born 5 months before I left Ethiopia is still a young child. However, Ethiopia proved that 11 years is more than enough to build a country to the higher phase. I used to work for the National Bank of Ethiopia in the Balance of Payments Division before I left the country and Ethiopian export earning was less 500 million Dollars a year. My fellow Ethiopians, export earning in Ethiopia now is more than 2.5 Billion. Folks, this is small information but it definitely shows the countries achievement in the economic front.
Addis Ababa is a pretty new city now comparing with those days, 11 years ago. You see a new buildings everywhere and business are flourishing in every neighborhood in city. The most important thing is not the buildings but the idea behind them. First, these buildings are owned by private entrepreneurs and clearly indicate the development of private entrepreneurship in the country. Secondly, these building are business entities which employ millions of Ethiopians. There is no doubt that employment is an engine of growth and enhancing private employment is a key to economic growth. Third, we see a huge private investment in these business entities. Foreign investment is pouring into the country and we need a domestic investment that can compete with the foreign investors. Hence these growing investments are the future of the country. As some critics say it is only buildings we see in Addis is completely wrong. The buildings are money, entrepreneurship, investment and employment.
Furthermore, the infrastructure in Addis is also another fast growing area of investment. The roads are new and first level asphalt road. The ring road, the Bole Meskell square road and the Gotera bypass are the few roadways to mention. The light rail track is under construction and they are digging to pave the way for underground rail track. This thing was unthinkable a decade ago. Now, it is a reality and will be finalized after few years. Nationally, roads are constructed and many more are under construction in every corner of the country even in the harshest environment from Shiket to Berahley in Afar region. I know the area very well and only camels were used to transport materials from one area to another. Now, Defense Engineering is constructing this asphalt road. Ethiopia is a different country now.
Most of us are old enough to remember what Ethiopian army then was doing. The Ethiopian defense forces, now, are engineers building roads, dams, producing cell phone apparatus, transformers, cars and buses. There is an incredible change of attitude among army personals. They are part of the economic transformation while always ready to defend the country in time of need to fight.
I also got a chance to visit my family in the country side. As we all know most Ethiopian depend on farming for their livelihood. I went to see my great mother in law in one of the remote area in the north east of the country. There is 24 hours electricity in every village and some households started to use electric stoves and TV. There is no disagreement how electricity contributes to a quality of life in any society. With electricity and electric stoves we can save the forests from being destroyed. Clinics can give a complete service if there is electricity in the area. Electricity was only in a few major cities with a limited capacity a decade ago. Now farmers are harvesting the benefits of electric power even in small villages. My fellow Ethiopian this is a reality in Ethiopia this days. The other important thing which impressed me in the country side is the people have cell phones and communicate with each other at any time. I was coming back from the village in a public transport when a woman beside me answering a phone was asking market information. Information is powerful in everything and whoever has the right information wins. I believe no body disputes the power of information in business and the facility of cellphone to send this information to whoever needs them.
Farmers now are diversified their activities. They are market oriented in their production and start to brow money from banks to finance their venture. They are extensively using fertilizers to enhance production. Schools are in almost every village and enrollment is astonishing even in the rural areas.
Generally, there are great economic changes in Ethiopia and I believe if the trend continues like this for the coming 10 years Ethiopia will transform to the Middle income country. Everybody is working hard to attain this goal. My fellow Diasporas we all may have our reservations but we must not be an obstacle to this activities so that Ethiopian can achieve a strong middle class status. I can say we have to be part of this positive movement. We may have differences and opinions in some issues, but we have to be one on national issues. Ethiopian and Ethiopia are changing incredibly fast and we need to be part of it.