8 March 2018

Ethiopia: Making Ethiopia a Technology Hub

Several private companies engaged in leather and leather products, textile, metal and engineering, chemical and construction and agro-processing sectors convened in the Mellinum hall for an expo. The expo was organized by Dunamis Social Entrepreneurs Limited Private Company which aimed at connecting producers and international exporters as well as creating opportunities for technology transfer. But most importantly, it was mainly about promoting the national brand "Made in Ethiopia".

I was approaching an engineering PLC, which displayed its products in variety in a small work shop, and two individuals were having some conversation about a product.

Dagmawi Eyasu, a coffee expert was looking for a machinery which he didn't find in the country and he already decided to import it from abroad until he found it at engineering workshop.

Muzemil Mohamed is a Deputy Manager of the Company where Dagmawi found its long sought machinery, told The Ethiopian Herald that founding members of the PLC were public servants some sixteen years ago. Then we learnt about the bottlenecks in the industrial sector. "And we established this company borrowing a little money from one of our female partners. Our vision was not only addressing the bottlenecks of the industrial sector which the nation spends a lot of foreign currency from importing materials that could be covered by local producers. We also wanted to support the agricultural sector by producing agro-processing and mechanization materials."

"We are trying to contribute in reducing the foreign currency incurred to import external products. The company is engaged in producing technologies like water gages and other important engineering products that could highly ease the hard jobs farmers face besides benefiting them. Accordingly, we are also working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource."

According to Muzemil, his company is also promoting and implementing several technologies that are emerging from universities around the country. For instance, the machinery used for distillation of aromatic plant leaves which was considered impossible to be fabricated in Ethiopia. However, "We brought the design from England and our engineers were able to build the machine in collaboration with Debere Berhan and Bahir Dar universities," noted Muzemil. Bahir Dar University also brought the idea to change the boiling system and we changed it from wood to flame gas. These is one step forward to the nation's green development strategy. "As a result, the university is now operating with our improved machinery."

On the other hand, college students are coming to the company for their practical studies. The company also hires these students and experts that come for their practicum.

Muzemil also said that the company is playing crucial role in giving capacity building training around neighbouring countries. "For instance, we are highly engaged in introducing water technologies and training the mechanisms in South Sudan. This has helped the South Sudan communities to support their economy with underground water irrigation developments. The training and technology transfer has also contributed in the nation's foreign currency earnings worth 50, 000 USD," he stressed.

Even though, the company has saved more than 250,000 USD from export by producing molds and other machneries for the local market, its products are not still well promoted. He noted that expos would play in creating market links and promoting the products.

Even if some products are well known with their quality, the cheaper similar materials imported from abroad are blocking the market, said Liuel Kinfe General Manager of a PLC which is engaged in manufacturing disposable plastic syringes. According to him, the company has the production capacity to supply its products in every health institutions throughout the world but imported materials with cheap price have dominated the market. "But the major factor is that most organizations have no idea about our products. Some of them don't even know these materials are produced here in Ethiopia."

However, the expo under the theme proud of my nation's products and the brand "Made in Ethiopia" could be the future hope of these and other domestic and foreign companies. From the first-time experience of this international expo buyers, local and foreign, were attracted to the products displayed on.

"I have met many local investors who are interested to buy our machneries only in the past two days and this is very crucial to our business. I have had the chance to meet the South Sudanese Minister of Agriculture while I was there for training. The minister told us that he would like to introduce many of the strategies Ethiopia implemented to change its agricultural sector. We have also been asked to come up with a research project that would contribute for South Sudanese' agriculture. That way our Ethiopian made technologies would disperse throughout Africa," said Muzemil.

Developmental Safety net improving livelihoods

Being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, improving its agricultural sector and ensuring food security has been the major task that Ethiopia has been carrying out by implementing several strategies and programs.

While the effort is still going on, different natural and climate related problems like the El Nino, La Nina have been affecting not only Ethiopia but also other African countries. Meanwhile, the country in collaboration with different developmental partners is addressing the problems with strategies that promote productive agriculture and food security systems.

Since small scale farming is the current key practice in Ethiopia, increasing productivity depends on how farmers utilize their small farms using agricultural inputs. The efforts have been showing progress from time to time as several agricultural knowledges and technologies are introduced to the farmers through agricultural extension programs.

However, there are many farmers and pastoralists that still need special supports from the government and development partners, in terms of ensuring their food security. This is due to the impacts of the above mentioned and other natural effects.

Developmental Safety net Program has been the governments effective strategies implemented in order to support households that has no or very low income throughout the country.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this program has become more effective for the fact that it has been inclusive in different aspects. The services in this program include providing food supplies, capitals in order to bring members of the society in practicing their own new businesses and supporting women in different agricultural and other social aspects etc. These supports are not provided without engaging the beneficiaries in some social developmental task in their surroundings.

For instance, 17,157.47 metric tonnes of crops have been supplied for people who are participating in social development activities in Somali State over the past six months. Though numbers of beneficiaries vary from place to place similar supports are going to different states throughout the country.

The Ministry's six months performance report indicate that more than four billion Birr has been distributed to the states and woredas all over the country for the implementation of the program including payments for those members of society who are participating in social development activities.

In terms of following up the implementation, the inspections have been made on field visits of all the states where the program has been undertaken. Consultative forums were also held with development partners following these field visits.

What makes this program most appreciated is that all safety net beneficiaries are not allowed to stay under the support of the program. In line with the social development activities, the beneficiaries have been receiving entrepreneurial and other technical trainings and were provided with initial capitals to start their own businesses which could be farming, animal husbandry, bee keeping etc. When they use their capital and develop their capacity, these members of the society would graduate from the program and start their independent lives.

This year alone, the Ministry has planned to graduate 212,340 safety net beneficiaries from Tigray, Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples, Harari states and Dire Dawa City Administration. As a result, careful inspections are under way to make sure that the graduates have really met the criteria of maintaining sustainable income for themselves and their family.

The due attention given to ensure food security for its citizens and the measures taken to get rid of dependency mentality is no doubt a crucial step forward for the nation's all inclusive developmental goals. Meanwhile, the finance expense for this tasks and the time must go inline otherwise it would be a loss for both the public and the government including our development partners.

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