At the heart of emergency time dialing numbers is the America's 911. This emergency telephone number has already become popular number not just in the country of the service provider but also in other parts of the globe with some countries adapting it including Canada. Now people outside of the US where the toll-free telephone number is reserved for emergency situations requiring the assistance of Police, Fire or Ambulance are familiar to it, thanks to their film industry, Hollywood.
Surprisingly enough, some of us may not know the dial number for Ethiopian police and other emergency service providers at a time of accident or emergency. The question is also how known, accessible and functional are our emergency telephone numbers among us. The answer is they are not.
Of course installing the required infrastructure is a must. There must be adequate network and internet services that fit to the contemporary situation. These phone numbers could not in fact be functional when the network is weak the whole week. But even for one to figure out whether they are working or not he or she must know the dial numbers. I just doubt if we are able to know them more than we do the 911. In such business, time is the most valuable.
Moreover, most of the information desks' telephone numbers of government agencies including emergency service providers are not reachable. I sometimes wonder if this is becoming a national norm. This time to get to the institution is much better than accessing their address via phone.
Besides installing efficient hotlines and helplines for institutions , member of fire brigade departments has their own Twitter and Facebook accounts solely dedicated to make themselves available for people looking help. But our organizations seem to forget that other sites can be powerful communication channels for sharing important information with the local community.
Countries have come to understand over the period of time that better connectivity produces quickest responses in emergency services. In emergencies, the responding agencies use social networks to share important updates, provide information and respond to questions from affected communities. Our organizations should similarly look to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to inform and get informed about incidents. However, this has not been the case in our context. Organization be it governmental or non governmental have outdated Websites, Facebook pages. Even if they are active, they are of only displays of the organizations' missions and visions.
Our emergency responding institutions should be available to all in every possible means. They need to know that social media has already become an integral part of disaster response, filling the gaps in areas where cell phone service are lost and that millions of people look for alternative ways of communication including Twitter and Facebook to keep informed.
It is important to understand that getting access to Hotline and Helpline is noting less than a matter of death and life. A delay in seconds may kill and save lives,with all emergency incidents, the faster you act, the better the response and resolution would be. Even countries are encouraging their citizens to use SMS texts in situations where a voice call could endanger the caller, or when a person with disabilities cannot make a call. This shows how much attention is given to emergency services.
On the other hand, the emergence of social media together with fast changing technological advancements has changed the emergency responses and rescue activities and the way business takes place. More and more people are coming online and utilizing Facebook and Twitter to put across their thoughts and information. While institutions are doing the same to fit to the contemporary world.
These days, one should not distribute leaflets and pamphlets to announce its services and new products. Many local and international service providers are already using social media Twitter and Facebook in particular in some rather creative ways. As million of people remain connected to the internet, businesses and services providers start to spend their ample time on developing accessible and modern web, Facebook and twitter pages. Organizations inform their customers and clients as quickly as possible about their services and activities through updating their various pages. Gone are the days of one-way communication where only official sources provide bulletins on disaster news.
Turkey's failed coup d'etat attempt is enough to see how strong using social media is. It is the combination of Twitter and Facebook that President Erdogan used that brought the coup to an end. He tweeted to his 8.6 m followers, posted on his Facebook page, and while aides turned to WhatsApp to control the situation.
Another instance how powerful using social media might be President Trump. Some even attributed his effective use of Twitter as the major weapon what peopled him to the White House. Emergency services could become far more efficient if they incorporated themselves with social media.
At this particularity time where information is power, updating your websites, Twitter and Facebook pages should be your routine task. But in our cases, except for some organizations, both governmental and non governmental have expired websites Facebook pages, even if it is active, it remains mostly not updated. In fact institution are by far better than those having none. Having the missions and visions and logo of the organization displayed is not enough.
As part of being transparent and responsible to inform their clients, the institution should timely and efficiently abreast clients with their current activities and status. Doing this cannot be considered as luxury. It is sometimes embarrassing to a public institution not to do this when lay men are able to do all these stuff for their own sake and interests.
It is time to look at new ways for people to report emergencies quickly and efficiently. In emergencies it is also imperative to update web, Facebook and other pages to share important updates, provide information and respond to questions from the communities.
BY DESTA GEBREHIWOT
Nowadays, countries at different levels of development increasingly recognize that innovation is critical for maintaining a competitive capacity in the global economy, as well as for facilitating economic diversification and holistic progress. It has been clear for long that innovation is the engine of technological breakthroughs throughout any economy led by new entrepreneurs and businessmen eager to apply their new ideas of science and technology.
The continuous transformation of innovation capacity has been a fundamental factor in countries that have experienced rapid and sustained economic growth, particularly in the global economic move of the nineteenth century. Emerging economies and developing countries seeking to pursue development strategies that foster growth to the mass must build the capacity to acquire, disseminate, and use technologies to promote innovation and encourage new and existing firms to invest in business opportunities.
Not only firms but also individual innovators must be encouraged to exhaustively utilize their talents in bringing up new technologies that play a bridging role in solving economic challenges. These supports could come in different fashions. Ethiopia should consider consolidating its approach towards innovation capacity building, creating an enabling environment including information and communication technology, creating financing schemes and other similar strategies by tapping in to up to date science and technology knowledge at a global level.
Samuel Merga, a 20 year old young innovator who tops elite science and technology competitions in the international arena, told The Ethiopian Herald that he was capable of doing this tremendous deed with only very little support from his parents. He has taken us through all the adventures of his efforts in technological creativity, the challenges he faced and the rewards he enjoyed. Here is the detail of our brief discussion with this brilliant young man.
Samuel on how he grew interest in science and innovation
I got in to innovation as a result of my interest in painting which as a kid my dad used to encourage me because he himself liked painting. So I started from painting helicopters and airplanes. As I was drawing these things, my school prepared a science fare and I wanted to join the competition after consulting with my father. Then I collected used cartons from my parents’ shop and drew images of different materials on them. Then I carved them out to get the replica of those objects I drew.
After a while, I learned about dynamos and motors. I wanted my helicopter to fly so, I started working on it. I plugged in a dynamo motor to my helicopter that makes the blade at the top spin. That's how I was caught up in to science and innovation. I worked on this childhood project day and night and when it is completed I took the sample to school. I won a prize at school with my helicopter which actually was my first work of innovation.
Then, I devised a simple satellite dish using a kitchen material with a wide metal frying pan and it worked. So that people who cannot afford to buy satellite dishes can easily use these low cost homemade dishes. This little piece of work also won a prize at school and sub city level.
On his bid to international competitions
I got the pleasure of traveling to India for science and technology competition in August 2016. The competition was organized by a company called Space Development Nexus (SDNx) in collaboration with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The competition was about Mars Rover, an automated motor vehicle that is in operation on Planet Mars for studies in space. So I present myself on the competition with a replica of Mars Rover and a car that can be driven with the use of two gears only.
While working on this vehicle, they vacated a whole workshop for me so that I can work on what I aspire to accomplish. While in operation there, I was working day and night to realize my dreams. The vehicle that I designed has only two gears, one drive and the other reverse. I planted a race car engine for it and when I tried the first time it was fantastic that it wasn't just working but it was unexpectedly fast. I haven't slept for a week until I finished this project and as I finished it, I was leaning back on the car and I fall asleep. When I woke up I was surrounded by students and professors were admiring me. And I won the competition which actually was a big deal for me since I was the only one representing my country Ethiopia and also the continent Africa in the competition.
In this competition, I was awarded a recognition certificate, trophy and workshop materials to continue my work. In addition they made me Founder and President of NASA Rover Challenge Ethiopia. With that, I was also placed on the responsibility of training other children in Ethiopia, who have the talent and who are interested in innovation.
On his second pledge to an elite competition
The second time I went to India for science fare was on March 2017, expecting to be part of the competition with students and engineers. When they took me to stage, I was surrounded by scientists and professors as well as famous journalists. Wondering what was happening, I asked whom I was going to compete with. One of the scientists there told me that the competition was with themselves [the scientists] and not students. I also realized I was the only student in the competition and it would be challenging.
However, I was still confident that I would win the competition. I presented a document about the space company that I am going to build in my home country which would be the first in Africa, that would go by the name Finfine International Space Education. For the competition, I was placed on a task of building a rocket model that would be launched. It took me only a couple of hours to complete the rocket and it practically did launch. I also return with victory from this competition.
On what he's doing at the moment
At the moment I have commenced new project that focuses on space development in Ethiopia. I also aspire to establish a space education academy in collaboration with other companies. The projects are now progressing well with a plan to design a latest space satellite known as Cansat. It will be the first of its kind in the continent when completed. Currently the project is in progress in collaboration with Space Kidz India. When the satellite is fully developed, it is expected to obtain recognition from NASA. As we know, not only Ethiopia but also other African countries do not yet have space satellite. When the satellite is fully developed and got recognition from NASA, which I hope would happen soon, the satellite is expected to be lunched to space and would help the country take part in studies of space science.
In addition to Space Kidz India, Indian Space Research Organization and a German based International Space Education are also partners in this project.
Moreover, I also teach at the Colonel John C. Robinson American Center at the American Embassy in Addis Ababa. I train children in innovation, robotics and satellite rockets and aspire to enable them take part in international competitions. I would appreciate it if people could stand beside me in supporting children to be involved in science and technology.
His insight in encouraging innovation
The government has to undertake its responsibility of enabling young innovators thrive with all supports beyond recognition and appreciation. There needs to be a platform where these students get better education in science and technology areas of their preference. In addition, competitions among ourselves locally is good but not enough. So, there must be a way in which young innovators could get the chance to take part in elite competitions at the international level.
If we look at the experience of other countries, we could see that there is a big difference. Small children are capable of innovating a number of mind boggling technologies far better than engineers. That is mainly the result of consecutive support from the concerned bodies including the government. Here in Ethiopia, most young people engaged in science and technology struggle to find success as they don't get much help beyond their efforts and little helps from their parents.
For example if you look at my case, I was able to go to India for those international competitions with the help of an artist named Galana Garomsa and a journalist named Meseret Daba in addition to Dinku Deyas, owner of rift Valley University. I would like to thank them all for their support. It shows that, in addition to the government the society at large could extend a little help to the development of science.
Currently, beside all the projects I am undertaking, I am taking online courses on cyber security through a scholarship I get from India. As I am also interested in intelligence, I am working on intelligence robots. I have developed fighter robots, drone helicopters, and intelligence devices that resemble pens. The spy pen I developed in a competition is actually manufactured and in market in India.
BY HOMA MULISA
For a country like Ethiopia that has upwards of eighty ethnic groups, local and national administration does not come easy. Reconciling the interests of different groups and establishing a working system for unity and development is always a major challenge. The long standing measure has been the complete denouncement of ethnic identity and a common allegiance to nationality. In case that fails, would the recognition of ethnic identities be an option?
After the bloody scenes of World War II that saw millions perish on account of the racist views of the powerful, a national approach to the administration that is based along ethnic lines has generally been renounced. A paper by Alem Habtu entitled “Ethnic federalism in Ethiopia: background, present conditions and future prospects,” states:
Following World War II and the start of decolonization, newly independent countries in Africa struggled to create viable nation-states combining different ethnic groupings within the territorial boundaries inherited from colonialism. For these countries, modernity entailed the transformation of disparate ethnic groups into a unitary nation-state with a common language and citizenship. France was the model nation-state par excellence. Such a nation-state came to be regarded as a badge of modernity, while “ethnicism” was associated with backwardness and repudiated by modernizing elites. Many African countries followed the nation-state model and attempted to create a unified nation out of disparate peoples.
The paper goes on to explain that the belief that ethnic identity should be denied public expression in political institutions has been conventional wisdom in the continent ever since decolonization. As a result, it asserts, the 1960s witnessed the rise of state nationalism in Africa and state nationalists attempted to undermine ethnic nationalism, which they saw as an obstacle to modern state formation. The author identifies that replacing ethnic identity that had been held high by the people with national identity became the major challenge for African nations.
The importance people attach to ethnic identity has, however, not been extinguished in the continent over the years as numerous liberation movements and conflicts between various ethnic groups were recorded in the meantime. The nation state model has repeatedly been exposed as insufficient in administering multi-ethnic societies as demonstrated in Rwanda, Sudan, Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia to name a few.
In the case of Ethiopia, as indicated in various history books, state formation was a long process of empire expansion that annexed neighboring societies into it. The paper by Alem Habtu argues that three forms of ethnic social engineering have been attempted in Ethiopia over the 20th century.
The first social engineering, it contends, was designed by Emperor Menelik (1889-1913) but significantly elaborated by Emperor Haile Selassie (1930-36, 1941-74). The author argues that it attempted to create a unitary state on the basis of cultural assimilation, using Amharic as the sole language of instruction and public discourse and Abyssinian Orthodox Christian culture as the core culture of Ethiopian national identity. It goes on to say that cultural and structural inequalities typified imperial rule, with ethnic and regional discontent rising until the revolution of 1974 overthrew the monarchy. The paper asserts that the policy of assimilation into mainstream Amhara culture provoked some subordinated ethnic groups into initiating ethnic movements in various regions of the empire-state.
The second ethnic social engineering (1974-91), it contends, was the military government’s attempt to retain a unitary state and address the "national question" within the framework of Marxism-Leninism. To address the latter, the paper explains, it set up the Institute for the Study of Nationalities in 1983. Based on the Institute's recommendations, it goes on to say, the military regime created twenty-four administrative regions and five autonomous regions within the unitary form of state, but no devolution of authority was discernible. According to the paper, the regime initiated a mass National Literacy Campaign in 15 Ethiopian languages in 1979. At the same time as it was making these and related efforts (e.g., in legitimating ethnic folk music and dance) in the direction of cultural pluralism, analyzes the paper, the regime waged a military campaign against ethno-nationalist armed groups. In the last decade of its rule, ethnic based opposition organizations had intensified their assault on the military government and ethnic nationalism became a major factor in the demise of the centralizing military regime.
After the failure of the two attempts in 1974 and 1991, the third ethnic social engineering (1991-present) by the EPRDF government to maintain the Ethiopian state on the basis of ethnic federalism as well as cultural, language and political autonomy at regional and sub-regional levels has been underway.
The paper argues that the ideological antecedents of EPRDF’s ethnic federalism project can be traced to Marxist-Leninist ideology and its conception of “the national question.” The Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) at home and abroad had introduced Marxism-Leninism to Ethiopia in the mid-1960s. The paper notes that "the national question" had soon emerged as the burning question. While explaining the historical adoption of the doctrine, the paper states:
The ESM was initially divided on the “correct” resolution of the national question. In the end, the ESM attempted to legitimate ethno-nationalism within the ideological compass of Marxism-Leninism, marking a radical departure from the inherited pan-Ethiopianist ideology … The ESM saw its resolution within the framework of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of "the right of nations to self-determination, up to and including secession." By 1971, the ESM worldwide adopted this doctrine. When the ESM gave birth to Marxist-Leninist political parties, notably Mela Ityopia Socialist Niqinaqe (MEISON) in 1968 and Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (EPRP) in 1975, it also bequeathed them this doctrine. When the military junta adopted the Marxist-Leninist orientation of the ESM, it conspicuously rejected "the right of secession" doctrine … When EPRDF assumed power in 1991, this doctrine became the basis for constructing a new federal state structure.
The current federal state structure recognizes the importance of ethnic identity and provides people with the chance to administer them while maintaining national unity through their willful consent. It gives ethnic groups the room to grow their culture and retain the respect they deserve in their relations with their fellow citizens. It also provides them with the opportunity to use their own languages in education.
Along with these rights granted to ethnic groups comes the responsibility to form an economic and political society. The economic integration of the nine states carved out along linguistic and ethnic lines has grown tremendously over the past couple of decades as the country has experienced an unprecedented level of economic growth and development. The relief from the state imposed measures to keep ethnic identity on the down low has also created a conducive environment for social groups to create a stronger political unity.
Considering the fact that the two previous attempts of social engineering by former regimes failed, the option of ethnic federalism that gives due attention to both ethnic identity and national unity is a viable alternative to administering multi-ethnic societies. African states need to take one good look at Ethiopia’s experiment and try their own versions of Federalism.
BY BEREKET GEBRU
One of the pressing issues that the rapidly growing Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s primate city, has been facing is serious housing problem. The capital is struggling to give its growing population opportunities to obtain decent, sustainable and affordable housing. The problem requires multifaceted solutions, new approaches, technologies and alternatives.
One major alternative could be encouraging innovative low-cost housing schemes, besides the government’s partially successful condominium projects of 10/90, 20/80 and 40/60. The government has built and transferred to residents more than 176,000 houses in the past decade alone. Yet, some 900,000 people are registered and in the waiting list of the above mentioned programs.
Besides, there are also a significant number of low and middle income groups who cannot afford the condominium programs, let alone using the other alternatives available such as cooperatives and private real estate developers. The private real estate development is so expensive that it totally excludes low and middle income sections of the society. The houses that are built through cooperatives, which are relatively cheaper than the outrageously expensive houses developed by private developers are still unaffordable. In fact, the prices of such houses are in the range of 600,000 to 900,000, beyond the reach of these sections of the society.
There are pilot projects to construct rental houses for lower income groups and civil servants, which could be scaled up based on feasibility. Currently, 2000 houses are under construction in the pilot projects.
The government has planned 450,000 houses would be built in the capital during GTP II, half of which by itself and the remaining half by cooperatives, private developers and other alternative projects. This is a daunting task and requires multifaceted approach.
For instance, the city needs saleable innovative housing schemes like that of the Sustainable Incremental Construction Unit (SICU), a collaborative pilot project and academic initiative by The Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC), _Bauhaus University Weimar, and the University of Juba in South Sudan. The pilot project sought to create a low-cost, easy-to-build housing typology that combines innovative construction techniques with local ways of living, using materials that can be produced locally. It specifically targeted the capital’s rapidly increasing housing demand due to rapid population growth, specifically growth in slums and informal settlements. Such initiative have to be encouraged, scaled up, studied and adopted as alternatives housing schemes.
While conducting such pilot low-cost innovative housing projects, it is also vital to take into consideration their applicability and scalability, besides academic purposes. The main object has to be about solving the real problems of the society practically. The main advantages of the innovative ideas have to be studied by taking local contexts into consideration.
Due emphasis has to be given to the fact that that housing development goes in line with urban development. It has to be seen from the perspective of infrastructural supply, transportation development, settlement patterns and urban design.
There is still low level of commitment from concerned authorities in adopting the new cost efficient ideas that come about from academicians as the implementation of such ideas require extra commitment and add huge managerial burden and workload.
It is vital to look for alternatives all the time and improve the management system, public-private partnership and commitment to share knowledge and implement new ideas. In addition, as housing is not a temporary problem, it demands a long-term strategy.
For long Addis Ababa has been single-handedly bearing the burden of the countries rapid urbanization. Stimulating the growth of secondary cities should be seen as part of the solution. It is vital to speed up the growth of new urban centres and small and medium sized towns. In fact it is planned to establish some 8000 rural urban centres in rural urban centres.
The government housing offices at city administration and federal levels and academicians at the (EiABC), as well as the private sector should form partnership to solve the problems.
Short supply of affordable housing has become a major challenge for residents of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s largest urban center. The overwhelmingly rising demand, particularly by low and middle income groups necessitates the need to come up with alternative low-cost housing projects.
The government has been implementing condominium housing projects for more than a decade. Yet, there is a huge gap between the number of people registered in the programs and the houses that have been built and transferred so far. With the current pace, it is doubtful that nation would meet the demand in the foreseeable future, unless quick remedy and alternative schemes are introduced.
“The 10/90, 80/20, and 40/60 housing projects are the major options the government has come up with so far” says Aregote Alemu, Addis Ababa Housing Development Project Office head. “But there are citizens who cannot afford the down payment for these programs. So there are pilot projects to construct rental houses for lower income groups and civil servants, which could be scaled up based on feasibility.”
Besides, it is also salient to pursue innovative low-cost housing programs. “Different stakeholders such as the Addis Ababa University’s Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) in collaboration with foreign universities have come up with excellent and innovative ideas to construct low-cost housings. But the question is whether or not they are scalable and applicable,” Aregote says adding such initiatives require institutions, strategies and executive procedures.
The government has planned 450,000 houses would be built in the capital during GTP II, half of which by itself and the remaining half by cooperatives, private developers and other alternative projects.
Though the 50/50 cooperative housing scheme as a concept is held as an alternative program, it by no means would address the demands of low and middle income groups as the price of the houses is in the range of 600,000 to 900, 000 birr.
According to the information from the Ministry of Urban and Housing Development, there is not yet any organized plan on the table at federal level for alternative low-cost housing schemes. Yet, there is an initiative to expand to other areas the experience in Tigray State where 11,400 civil servants are organized and received land to construct houses. By initially depositing 53,000 birr at Dedebit Saving and Credit Association, the civil servants would access loan from the association and disburse it in 15 years.
Fasil Giorgies, is assistant professor at the EiABC. He says there have been pilot projects and attempts in the institution to come up with low-cost and time efficient innovative housing schemes using local construction materials in old slums.
“One thing that needs to be underlined is the fact that housing development goes in line with urban development. It should not be seen as a separate concept as it is the case sometimes. When we talk about housing development, it has to be seen from the perspective of infrastructural supply, transportation development, settlement patterns, urban design and the likes.”
The main problem according to him is in the weak exchange of information and knowledge. “In our institute, there is a research and consultancy unit. There are several experts (both students and teachers) with huge potential and we have to use that. For instance, if we take the case of China, consultants in universities and educational institutes involve in many building designs and studies,” Fasil underlines.
There is still low level of commitment in implementing new ideas. “For instance, at EiABC, we have been given the task of preparing an urban design for the Balcha Welde Chelote area around Arat Kilo. Based on our study, we came up with a new design to construct condos in the future with cost efficient system. However, it was rejected by the concerned authorities because it requires extra commitment and adds huge managerial burden and workload on them. It is sad because we prepared the designs by taking the area’s landscape into consideration. There is lack of commitment in embracing new ideas,” he expresses his concern.
It is vital to look for alternatives all the time and improve the management system, public-private partnership and commitment to share knowledge and implement new ideas, he advises.
Housing is not a temporary problem which demands temporary solutions. It is a challenge that a city or a nation has to confront with all the time and hence it demands a long-term strategy says Dirk Doath, an architect from Germany’s Bauhaus University who took part in a collaborative pilot low cost housing project in Addis a couple of years ago.
“We have to understand fairly the challenge and the problem behind. It is time now to evaluate what has been achieved, what went wrong and why (e.g. the condominium program), what can be improved and what shall be completely changed,” he tells The Ethiopian Herald. “A lot of those experiments have been produced already and are just running without this reflection.”
_Regarding the role of architecture in resolving Addis Ababa’s housing problem, he says architecture and engineering is only one factor out of all of those general issues. “Architecture cannot be understood as an impulsive reaction focused on physical realisation of buildings /infrastructure to a problem. It is necessary to understand the context and full dimension as the problem is not only related with lack of materials, capacity etc. The problem can also emerge from challenge in the culture of production and management.”
As a long term strategy, Dirk suggests decentralization of urban centres and development of small and medium sized towns with proper economy, service, public and cultural infrastructure as stated in GTP II where it is planned to establish 8000 rural urban centres.
There is also need for research development such as the EiABC’s four year “integrated infrastructure” and “Terms of Towns” project. “In this research, we are going for experiments and prototypes too. This gives the real and graspable opportunity to evaluate and simulate further industrial processes and products. It is an important research methodology in architecture/engineering field,” he says.
BY ABIY HAILU
The number of satellite TV broadcasters has seen dramatic increase in just few years but scholars question whether their local news and program contents are designed in a way to promote the social, political and economic aspects of the country beyond entertaining the public and making profits.
Today, 13 private and public satellite TV channels are on air, of which five of them were licensed this year with Walta and ENN televisions airing programmes already while Fana TV is on transmission test. Dimtse Woyane and Arki televisions are also going through establishment process.
A recent assessment by the Ethiopian Broadcast Authority indicates that most of the channels deal with social, economic and political affairs but some excessively focus on entertainment for appealing to a wider audience.
Though the channels have their own autonomous format, they need to play their social responsibility role of promoting the wellbeing of the public via their contents. But this has not been the case so far, believes Dr. Teshager Shiferaw Journalism Lecturer at Addis Ababa University. “Some of the media houses tend to be more concerned on entertainment than serious but important issues of the public. They are market oriented that’s why they fail to provide relevant and timely information.”
Most of the channels are privately owned and of entertainment purpose while the public ones seem to lose public trust. I think what we have is the same format with different channels. The media houses just come up with stories of soft nature.
Regardless of their negative impacts on the public, these channels are gaining the ears and hearts of audiences. “This is mainly due to their sensational content, Dr. Teshager says. However for him influential media is about having a news and edutainment content that would contribute to the wellbeing of the society.
In fact some people believe that the growth in number of channels would widen alternative and choice for viewers. The increasing number of the TV channels would create various media choices that help the public to get its preference, agrees Dr. Teshager.
Getachew Misganaw is a viewer. He categorizes the channels as either entertainers or information providers. For him channels such as ENN are performing well to some extent in terms of reporting and breaking new developments and raising controversial issues.
On the other hand the contents of some TV channels are far cry from the Ethiopian context such as culture and politics, he notes.
Natinael Yohannes is another audience. He says, these days, some of the media organizations solely stick to transmission of foreign movies. Even if he is not fond of watching TV channels, he believes the content of some media houses are of superficial. In a developing country like Ethiopia, to carry sensational stories and programmes is not timely because developmental issues are the nation's prioritys, Dr. Teshager notes.
But the media organizations believe that they are somehow playing their social responsibility role and are optimistic that there would be improvements in contents if things get better.
Yayesew Shimelis, ENN News Room Head believes that his channel is playing its social responsibility role through providing relevant and timely information when new developments and stories unfold. “We try to come up with investigative reports. “We try to break a story before it goes viral on the social media,” he adds.
Nahoo TV Owner and CEO Wendosen Kassaye TV station is trying to promote social value and nationalism. “Most of our programs push for unity and strong social cohesion. Already having various program, the channel plans to have news airtime soon,” he says.
However, despite their internal limitations according to the media personalities, the media are facing various external challenges. Officials refuse to give valid information for the media. Access to information is very limited. And it would be hard to come up with stories in the absence of information, underscores Yayesew.
If there is one good thing about the media, it is the increase in number. Otherwise , it is hard to function under current circumstance given to the limited information access and lack of sponsorship.
It is the entertainment programs that attract the audience and sponsors. It is difficult to get sponsorship for critical and valuable TV programs that carries nation’s socio-economic affairs, says Yayesew.
To address the challenges, Dr. Teshager advises journalists to upgrade themselves and Media Council to play its role in empowering the media to serve the public efficiently and professionally.
Government Affairs Communication Public Relation Director Mehamed Seid is skeptical over the media’s role in serving the needs of the people. He says some of the satellite televisions are mainly concerned with sport drama, and music.
In fact, one of their challenges to come up with credible and relevant stories is reluctance of officials to give information. There are even times that my office is forced to write recommendation letter requesting officials to respond to the claims of the media.
The office encourages officials to be more cooperative and open to the media and is organizing discussion forum to address shortcomings facing the industry.
As the country continues to modernize its analogue with digital system and plans to increase the satellite TV stations to 20, Ethiopia’s media need to review its operation to serve the public interest.
BY YOHANES JEMANEH
“I post my paintings on Facebook but never thought for once that someone from overseas could come to buy them. Then one day, an American woman, who is a doctor by profession, came to my place and told me that she saw the painting on my facebook page and she liked it,” says Solomon Tsega Zeab, a young painter who graduated from Tigray College of Arts in 2011 with diploma.
The woman, whose name he does not remember, came all the way to Addis Ababa and bought one of his favorite paintings for 4000 Birr. The painting was a portrait of an old small mud house which is on the verge of falling and an unfinished multi-story building, standing within distances in a place called Arat Killo at the heart of Addis Ababa. It is a realistic painting that shows both the old and newly emerging images of Addis.
Solomon has collection of his own creative paintings in his house that he never got the chance to show them at exhibitions for he could not access such events. Even if he managed to find people who own galleries to participate in their events or exhibitions, they put preconditions. They want 60 percent of the income from the sale of paintings displayed in their galleries, while the rest goes to the painter. Thus, he is forced to simply keep his paintings in his house and sometimes sell them cheap for individuals who happen to accidentally visit and show interest to buy. As a result his paintings still remain as colors behind a curtain.
“Reality is my motivation and most of my art works are realistic,” he tells The Ethiopian Herald.
In addition he likes to express the bright side of life in his paintings. “Such works of art could inspire people to envision a better future for themselves and the coming generations. It could also be used to motivate people to make valuable contributions for the nation’s progress towards sustainable development and economic growth.”
On the other hand, Agegnehu Adane a lecturer in Alle School Fine Arts and Design of Addis Ababa University says painting art should also be understood as a very important tool to promoting the real image and advancement of a nation and the life style, culture and history of its peoples. “In this case, art of painting has been playing significant role both in Spiritual services and material life style of Ethiopians.”
According to him, the art is improving from time to time in Ethiopia. Ever since it became one field of study in the modern education of the country, it has brought many changes in its sixty years. There are internationally praised artists who’ve contributed a lot for the world of art. There are still artists emerging and they are products of the school. The school is still training and graduating students. But the number of the students that joins the college are few because teaching materials in the field are expensive and due to budget limitations.
However, whether or not Ethiopia is really utilizing its artistic potential of painting towards promoting or advocating socioeconomic progress of its people’s remains to be a question, he notes.
Solomon and many others like him still are looking for chances to share their painting works of art with the public and gain the necessary benefits. And Solomon argues that there is no or very little awareness about the significance of art and not that much concern or effort is there to promote the profession.
Over 100,000 graduates of higher educational institutes including the TVET centers are joining the skilled laboure force in Ethiopia as the numbers of universities kept on increasing. And the concern of sustaining the rapid economic growth through every developmental sector depends on how the Nation uses this educated man power. However, the understanding towards the crucial role of creative works of art on the efforts of development, particularly paintings, seems be unnoticed. Compared to other areas of studies available in Universities throughout the Nation, the numbers of art schools or departments are few and hence it need due attention.
BY HENOK TIBEBU
The Ethiopian Diaspora Association expressed its concern over lack of adequate platforms to bring the government and Diaspora together and promote amicable relations towards working in nation's development.
Association Chief Executive Director Abrham Sium told The Ethiopian Herald that platforms are in short supply for the diaspora and government to discuss on national agendas what he thought would create some gaps in reaching common goals.
“We need to have exhaustive platforms to narrow down the differences between the two extremes of political opinion between diaspora and government. There is something in common between two diametrically opposite extremes, at least they all have one country,” said Abrham Meanwhile the association is preparing to form professional department under the association to mobilize Ethiopian experts and professionals of various disciplines invest their skills for building national capacity.
The country needs to harness the technological and expertise knowledge of the Ethiopian diaspora. “We are trying to get the professional organized under the same platforms on the basis of the areas of their field of profession. To do that, consultations should constantly be organized to see the means to do that.
The two extremes should put their political differences aside and find themselves in the same page when it comes to national interests such as development. You can be against the ruling, but it is unfair to be against the development of your country.
I know some individuals who are trying to do their best on their own to transfer expertise knowledge but face many hassles and bustles. That is why some find their way back to where they reside.
To find ways to work together, there should be discussion and consultation forum which the government is trying to do and should continue to do so.
The two extremes should put their political differences aside and find themselves in the same page when it comes to national interests such as development. You could be against the ruling could not be against the well being of your country.
It is all about patriotism, I am sometimes perplexed to see some professionals who were raised and educated in other countries to have come back to Somalia only because their blood descended to it.
BY DESTA GEBREHIWOT
Ethiopian Women Federation is backing women entrepreneurs to expand job opportunities and play due role in nation’s economic growth.
Federation Planning, Monitoring and Report Preparation Expert Genet Seyoum tells The Ethiopian Herald that the federation has been working to support women through facilitating training, finance and creating job opportunity.
Various training programs have been given to empower women on agri-business, natural resource conservation, animal breeding and bee keeping and basin development among others, she says.
This fiscal year, the federation has created about 307, 620 jobs in the areas of in agri-business, manufacturing, construction and service sectors.
It has also built market shed in Addis Ababa at a cost of 12 million birr with capacity of accommodating about 150 women and plans to expand it across the country, Genet says.
On the other hand the federation has helped 1,413,598 women to save some 467, 348, 194 birr, she says.
Addis Ababa Women Federation President Almaz Abrha for her part notes the federation is playing its due role through enabling women entrepreneurs to empower themselves and create jobs to others.
This year, the federation has created 21,676 jobs in various fields including transport, business and services, she says.
The federation disbursed 400,000 birr credit to women who are engaged in small and micro unions. It is has also given adult education course to 20,000 members.
BY YOHANES JEMANEH