Sunday, October 30, 2011

Free Societies Inspire Engagement

Photo: Dawn Colquitt-Anderson/EGI
By: Bethel Tsehai, M.P.H. (@bethel_tsehai)
October 30, 2011

A week ago, on Saturday, October 22, I attended the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference at Harvard University. BuildEthiopia provided a platform for participants and attendees to actively engage in exploring current issues facing Ethiopia and to seek solutions for those challenges. Students, professionals, educators, policy makers, activists, and community organizers came together to collaborative and mutually inspire.

Topics covered include social entrepreneurship and economic development, civic engagement, and exploring the millennium development goals in relation to Ethiopia. Mr. Tesfaye Yilma, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Ethiopia to the United States, spoke on the various threats Ethiopia faces in the future, in particular, poverty as the country’s top national security threat. On the positive side, the government is making efforts to ensure a transfer of knowledge and technology.

Mr. David Rice, Executive Director of New York University’s Development Research Institute, emphasized the need for and benefits of economic freedom in Ethiopia. Often times, international development issues stem from issues in leadership. In light of this statement, he asked some thought provoking and profound questions. In particular, he asked, “Can you have economic freedom and growth without criticizing the current government?” It’s imperative to realize that only in a free society does a country have complete economic freedom. He asked, “Could Steve Jobs do what he did in Ethiopia?” Think about it! In a free society, citizens are not only empowered, but entitled to pursue their dreams without hindrance. Failure or success of the individual is based on their own efforts and abilities and not dictated or controlled by the government.

On the bright side, Ethiopia’s GDP is growing at a progressive double-digit rate. In light of this growth, it is vital for donor countries to partner with the African Diaspora. It is clear that Africa needs an African solution! Frankly, the African Diaspora needs to step and think outside the box and develop new and innovative ways to approach the difficulties of Ethiopia and Africa in general.

Through capacity building, enhancing social media and technology, and engaging in social entrepreneurship, Ethiopia will become a self-sustaining and successful country. There is hope and it begins with one word: ENGAGEMENT!

Bethel Tsehai, M.P.H., is Project Manager of the Midwives Scholarship Fund at the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

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