Saturday, October 23, 2010

Travel Abroad Opportunity for American Students in Ethiopia

Planning is underway at the Ethiopian Global Initiative, an international organization of students and young professionals, for a new project that aims to send college students from the United States to Ethiopia. The project, U.S. College Students for Ethiopia, plans to provide volunteer and intern opportunities for American college students. Initially, it will be a summer opportunity but in the coming years the Ethiopian Global Initiative intends on providing semester and full year travel opportunities to Ethiopia.

Working with the leading public and private sector organizations in Ethiopia, U.S. College Students for Ethiopia will give American college students the unique opportunity of gaining practical experience in their academic field of interest while in Ethiopia. Students majoring in English Literature might volunteer to teach English at a rural primary school while those majoring in Economics might want to intern at an agency like the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, headquartered in Addis Ababa.

The Initiative’s management is busy assembling the Project Steering Committee for U.S. College Students for Ethiopia. The Committee, led by a Project Manager, will be responsible for the management, planning and implementation of the project. In the coming weeks the Project Steering Committee will be finalizing agreements with partner and receiving organizations in the United States and Ethiopia. A group of about 10-15 American college students will be selected in the spring to travel to Ethiopia in 2011 as a pilot project test for the Initiative.

Get Involved!
You can join the Project Steering Committee if you want to be involved in managing and overseeing an important international project by emailing the EGI Department of Internal Affairs at Getting involved in the Project Steering Committee is an important way for students and young professionals to build their experience in regards to project planning and management, teamwork and communication skills.

The project is also looking for 10-15 students to participate in the pilot project test for the summer of 2011. A formal application process does exist and further information will go out in the spring but students interested should indicate their interest by emailing the EGI Department of Operations at

For further questions you may email

Celebrating the Ethiopian Global Initiative's Fourth Anniversary

Dear Friend,

October 22, 2010, is the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s fourth anniversary. This year marks a special transition to our organization. With our humble beginnings on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge as a 13-member group ranging from 6th graders to 12th graders, we have grown into an organization that has networks and members in North America, Europe and Africa.

The road has not always been straight for us. Considering the limited resources of our organization of students and young professionals, we have gone above and beyond our call of duty. The genuine goal to see Ethiopia develop is what the Initiative is about. Combining and capturing the social and intellectual capacity students and young professionals have for Ethiopia’s transformation is not merely a nicely worded mission statement. It is the governing principle of our lives.

Aside from contributing to Ethiopia’s transformation, the Ethiopian Global Initiative aspires to work with people globally that have an affiliation with Ethiopia—be it the Ethiopian diaspora or the “friends of Ethiopia.” Ethiopia’s friends include those who have served in Ethiopia as volunteers, adopted Ethiopian children and those who show affection towards Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Global Initiative wants to work as a catalyst for community engagement and socioeconomic development in our communities worldwide. This, of course, sounds nice but is also a lofty challenge.

We have seen that not having a central and strong Ethiopian community in Washington, D.C. has impacted us. The recent death of 27-year-old Ethiopian American Ali Mohammed was not an accident—it was a gross murder and should be called that. There are many Ethiopians in the diaspora that would have benefitted from our sense of unity. Our communities are impacted by imprisonment of young males, homelessness, lack of resources, mentorship and education, strong ethno-political animosity, amongst others.

The hopelessness that our community faces does not need to be there. While it is important to be concerned about matters in Ethiopia, we must take care of our communities abroad, too. Taking care of our communities does not mean rallying together when someone’s home tragically burns down or when someone is murdered by cowards, but by regularly showing love, appreciation and unity—andinet in Amharic.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative will be completing its overhaul on January 1, 2011, the beginning of our new fiscal year. The projects and management we plan to roll out is aimed to position the Initiative as a strong member of the communities it works for. In the coming weeks we will be releasing more and detailed information on the projects and programs that we will launch in 2011 and I encourage all to join our planning efforts.

On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, I personally extend an invitation to all Ethiopians to strengthen one another by committing to combine and capture their individual and collective strengths and resources with the Initiative. As for who is an Ethiopian, the answer is simply everyone as it is the cradle of mankind!

Respectfully yours,

Samuel M. Gebru

Monday, October 11, 2010

Youth and Entrepreneurship in the Ethiopian Society

By: Gedion Yitbarek

Challenges are common when executing a business venture with any level of sophistication. What makes it even worse is being young and introducing a new business idea to the society of a developing country. After years of faulty systems that degraded the confidence of the consumers and investors in their country, Ethiopians are doubtful about the possible success of newly emerging businesses that could potentially lead the local economy towards prosperity. The only way to rebuild this eroded confidence is when citizens, young or old, recognize the youth as a stakeholder. Involving the youth in decision makings and equipping them with the necessary leadership skills bring up a sustainable changes in the future generation. The old saying, “Ante lij neh minim atawukim” (“You are a kid and don’t know anything”) has no place in the 21st century and we must erase it from our society.

Thousands of businesses arise in Ethiopia every year with a significant amount of capital. A few reach to a peak where growth is almost stagnant afterwards. Thus, instead of allocating additional resources and funds to grow further sustainably, these businesses choose to stay at their peaks for a while until a competitor with a better approach joins the market and topples them. Eventually, when these companies can’t stay in competition anymore, they declare bankruptcy or sell the company at a low price. Nowadays, it’s rare to see companies in Ethiopia passing a second generation within the founding family. This is the result of excluding the youth in the process and not preparing them to take over in the future. As seen in most cases, when parents are ready to retire the business they own dies as their kids are not ready to take over. The son or daughter of a company owner is only expected to attend school and never worry about financial decisions that might impact him or her in the future. This problem also manifests itself in any status of the society among Ethiopians; parents do not involve the youth in major decision makings and this has major impact in establishing long term projects that require a high level of leadership and commitment.

It’s normal to see that short term money making techniques such as importing processed goods from other countries have taken over the Ethiopian economy. Surprisingly, not enough is exported to balance the currency. Our society has evolved into making fast money by importing goods as supposed to building a company to produce the items. It’s obvious that building a company needs a raw material, a skilled man power and not to forget a great leadership. By saying a great leadership, it’s not only referring to the CEO of the company but also every single individual in the hierarchy responsible for executing a specific task. Thus, the kind of leadership needed within the company to make it sustainable neither exists at the moment nor does it spark overnight among the individuals in the future; it is a long process that is rooted back to the early age of the professional workers. Unfortunately, Ethiopian schools do not have programs and clubs that develop leadership skills among students and this correlates to why we do not see great leaders of big companies. The society needs to understand that going to school and passing exams isn’t the only way to solve problems of any kind in the country; rather being able to cooperate with one another and executing ideas towards success is the major thing everyone should focus on to bring a major change.

The short life span of businesses in Ethiopia is an indication of not planning sustainable projects that can survive for decades within our society. Apparently, projects which have high rate of return in a short period of time are common business practices. The ones that take long and challenging process are, as mentioned above, imported from other countries. This approach impacts everyone especially the youth. A lesson taken from these companies by the youth is choosing short cut businesses as supposed to building a legacy that can pass to generations. The society is doubtful to welcome a sophisticated system which takes years to build because they already assume that it’s going to fail without even trying it. A professor at one of the major universities in the United States called this behavior, “an Induced Helplessness.” In her simple experiment she proved that a repeated failure in the past might discourage an individual to believe in the success of the future outcome, even if it might have a great chance. Therefore, the Induced Helplessness in our society can only be solved by giving more attention to the youth. Instead of exposing them to repeated discouraging failures, the society should give the youth a chance to try out new things and experiment on ideas with peers through different simulated clubs and school programs.

In my senior year at high school in Addis Ababa, I was invited to prepare a game for a carnival. I designed one which allowed 5 people play at once. The challenge wasn’t building the game; rather it was convincing my friends to help me promote it to the carnival kids. Only one agreed to stay and promote my game while the rest thought it was a joke wasting their time while they could promote the ones which were already making fast money at that moment. Afterwards, I called a few kids and gave them free sample coupons. I also told them they could get more free games if they convince their friends to play at my station. Honestly, whom do kids listen to more than adults? Anyways, those 5 kids brought 2 each and those 2 brought many more which later that day enabled me to make more money than the rest of the carnival games. This is the concept that lives inside me in my future business venues. Some might believe in me and help me grow while the rest abandon my effort thinking that it is a waste of time. But the truth is, as long as one strategizes and does things bravely, there is always a way to win a customer’s attention. As a youth, that specific day had impacted my life because I experienced what it meant to be a successful businessman for a day. Indeed, similar chances should be granted to all youth who want to be business owners; only then can they learn to make wise decisions, which will serve them for the rest of their lives.

We have responsibilities to build a community based on optimism, hard work, commitment and a great leadership. If these four things are embedded within the minds of the Ethiopia’s youth, a more sustainable and organized businesses can arise in the future. Adults should learn to comment 10 ways to make a certain idea grow and succeed than giving 100 reasons why it would fail. Even though any business idea has a risk and challenge, through optimism, hard work, commitment and great leadership one can overcome the problems and give a more durable solution. Of course in order to develop these mindsets, our society needs to involve the youth in decision makings because great leadership actually starts at home.

Gedion Yitbarek, an Engineering student at the University of Oklahoma, is Director of Operations at the Ethiopian Global Initiative and President and Founder at EthioCinema LLC

Important Information

© 2010 Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc. Material may be republished with credit to this blog and/or the original author. The views and comments expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of the Ethiopian Global Initiative, Inc.