4 November 2017

Ethiopia: Akaki Campus Finally to Go Back to Original Owner After a Decade

Addis Abeba University (AAU) is going to fully hand over its campus in Akaki to the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) along with its facility, regardless of not being able to relocate the departments it used to run on the property.

AAU was notified to return the campus, initially designated to be Ethiopian Academy of Financial Studies of NBE, in a letter signed by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

The Campus, constructed 11 years ago to serve as a training facility for the financial centre, currently hosts MA and PhD programmes. The training centre was initially established as the Ethiopian Institute for Banking Studies (EIBS) in February 1966, when NBE and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) were formed, to train those in the Ethiopian banking industry.

After undergoing various improvements, Ethiopian Institute for Banking Studies took its current form in 2007 with its present name and began providing courses grouped into four main categories: Banking, Microfinance, Insurance and Management Development.

The Campus's facilities include 160 dormitories, 52 one-storey guest houses, 40 fully furnished VIP rooms, four villas, one seminary, a large conference hall, and different sized lecture rooms.

It was conferred to the AAU in 2007 in a five-year rent agreement signed by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi when the University was under the stewardship of Endias Eshete (Prof.). However, until now, the University has not paid any rent to NBE.

AAU placed four departments at the campus: College of Development Studies, Institute of Bio-Technology, Ethiopian Institute of Water Resources and Capacity Building for Scaling up Evidence-Based Best Practices in Agricultural Production in Ethiopia (CASCAP), after taking it over from the central bank.

Consequent to the termination of the contract, the central bank wrote a letter to the University requesting it to return the property on October 30, 2012, But the University stated that it was not in a state of delivering the building, claiming it had invested much in the property and had various ongoing classes contributing to the development of the country.

At that time, AAU, established in 1950 and graduated over 222,00 since then, had 1,000 researchers in the PhD and Master's programmes under the four departments.

AAU wrote a letter on November 22, 2012, to the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Education (MoE) and NBE, listing five points which prevented it from handing over the property to its former owner.

The beginning of the academic year during the time of the notice, space limitations to relocate the departments, the investment on the property, ongoing programs and occupying the campus for perpetual educational cooperation with the international educational institutions, were the reasons mentioned by the University to retain the institute under its ownership.

But the central bank stood firm on its ground as indicated in a letter written on October 3, 2013.

The PM's Office and Ministry of Education arbitrated between the two with the decision of allowing the University to use the campus for five more years and should fully hand it over by the end of the five years. Consequently, the two parties signed a contract on this basis in April 2013.

According to the deal, the University was obliged to transfer the 30pc of the campus with its property by September 2015, an equal portion the next year and the remaining 40pc this year.

In line with the deal, AAU has already relocated three of its four departments within the first two years of the contract, though it was unable to transfer the Institute of Water Resources.

"For the transfer, the University has already formed a committee with three members," said Assemahegne Asres, communication director for the University, which has 14 campuses with 70 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate programs, and various specialisations in Health Sciences.

The University has not been able to relocate its Institute of Water Resources, even after the deadline.

"The management of the University is trying to find a place for the Institute," said Assemahegne. "But still the university wants to retain it as it has a favourable environment for research."

The oldest and the largest higher learning and research institution in the country, AAU has 34 colleges, research and teaching faculties and schools under it. Currently, it has an intake capacity of 48,673 students of which 33,940 are enrolled in the undergraduate programmes, 13,000 in the Master's programmes and 1,733 are pursuing their PhDs. It employs 6,043 staff.

"The central bank has been facing a space quandary for its training programmes," said a source from the NBE.

Central bank's training centre runs over 150 programmes a year at its new building, the former Construction & Business Bank (CBB) and the Hidase building of the CBE located at Megenagna.

"The bank plans to consolidate all these fragmented training centres into one academy," said same source from NBE.

The University of South Africa (UNISA) has also been operating in the Institute for the past 10 years partnering with the government to work on human capacity development in the sphere of education. The fate of UNISA, which has graduated 500 students so far, is unknown yet.

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