Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BuildEthiopia: Technology and Reaspora

Moderator Elizabeth N. Ngonzi discussing with speaker
Teddy Ruge at the 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference.
(Photo: Dawn Colquitt-Anderson/EGI)
By: Emily Weinstein (@emyli_rose)
October 25, 2011

The 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference held this past Saturday, October 22 at Harvard University was a tremendous success. BuildEthiopia is described as “an international gathering of students, educators, professionals, community organizers and policy makers designed to seek solutions for the challenges Ethiopia faces in the 21st Century.” During BuildEthiopia, EGI’s President Samuel Gebru stressed the six pillars of the conference, illustrating the ways in which one can contribute to Ethiopia's prosperity:

  • Network with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about making Ethiopia a better place to live and work.
  • Share your ideas on how to help Ethiopia grow and how to promote unity amongst students and professionals in the diaspora.
  • Learn from speakers who share their experiences, successes and mistakes and also answer your important questions.
  • Collaborate with participants to seek practical solutions to some of the issues facing Ethiopia and the Ethiopian diaspora.
  • Build a global network of individuals like you and connect with them to continue sharing your ideas and solutions.
  • Motivate your friends to turn your ideas into action through the resources and networks of the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

Throughout the day, the conference also adopted another theme: the impact of social media, the availability of technology, and other methods of individual and creative representation on the African continent. The Co-founder of Project Diaspora, Teddy Ruge, presented thought-provoking insights on the technological advancements sweeping across Africa, explaining how the mobile phone revolution is connecting the continent with the statement, “mobile is the pencil rewriting Africa's story.” In response Samuel Gebru tweeted, “Social media can be a solution to help the Ethiopian diaspora connect, volunteer and build a sense of community.”

The concept of “Africa 3.0” discussed at BuildEthiopia applies not only to the technology rapidly making its mark on the African continent, but also the return of the African diaspora to their native countries and the subsequent reversal of the “brain drain.” Affectionately termed “reaspora,” these educated Africans once left their homes in Uganda, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, etc. and relocated to the U.S. and Europe seeking to further their education. These concerned Africans are now returning to their countries of birth seeking solutions to socioeconomic issues.

When reflecting on the events of the day, everyone agreed that one of the most important conclusions was that Africa needs an African solution. The most effective way to create transformation in Africa is to commission the knowledge and experience of those who know the ways in which their home countries function.

I am proud that the 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference was another success for the Ethiopian Global Initiative; it will certainly not be the last. Thanks to all the participants and organizers who made BuildEthiopia possible. I hope to see everyone at next year's conference from October 6-8, 2012.

Emily Weinstein is an Event Manager at the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

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