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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sustainable Programs that Empower

Photo: Oxfam America
By: Abel Tadesse, M.H.S. (@Abel_Says)
October 27, 2011

I came across an article published on October 24, 2011 by Oxfam America entitled With Insurance, Loans, and Confidence, this Ethiopian Farmer builds her resilience. These are the kind of stories that I love to read as it gives hope and allows an individual to see the glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is definitely hope for Ethiopians that depend on agriculture and livestock as long as there is a system to support their long-term needs. For example, Selas Samson Biru from the article is a farmer who participated in a crop insurance program where she was able to secure "payout for a crop" insurance in case harvesting fails due to drought. Further, the Oxfam America program opened the door to financial loan options. Surely enough, the program continues to provide support, guidance and encouragement to Ethiopian farmers. In Selas' case, she was even able to take advantage of the loan program to obtain "her own pump" to help in irrigation system for her crops. These programs exemplify that any human being can learn and apply smart sustainable investment practices as long as there is a seed of empowerment.

The article mentions challenges such as expensive fertilizers. It is also evident that there is inaccessibility of such programs to other regions of Ethiopia and the ongoing drought in Horn of Africa is not helping the conditions as well. However, these shouldn't be a surprise to us and become an obstacle to our work towards development. Rather, we should learn from these positive stories and pursue innovative programs that continue the efforts to develop financial and human resources. Of particular importance is the intellectual capital of the Ethiopian diaspora.

It is undeniable that the diaspora has an abundance of experts familiar with Ethiopia's condition and can deliver intellectual and financial support. To use these resources efficiently, it will be important to create social awareness through various channels such as networking events and conferences that nurture collaboration and attract individuals and organizations that aim to implement sustainable programs that educate and empower Ethiopians.

As exhibited in the Ethiopian Global Initiative’s 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference on October 22 at Harvard University, EGI also contributes to improve the lives of Ethiopian communities in Ethiopia and abroad by setting the value of networking, sharing ideas, learning as well as motivating and collaborating with organizations and individuals for the betterment of Ethiopia.

Abel Tadesse, M.H.S., is Director of Project Development of the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

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.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Left to Right: EGI Vice President for Operations Leul Yohannes, EGI Director of Marketing Ryan Olivieri, HSBA
Executive Director Denise Jillson, EGI President Samuel M. Gebru, EGI Event Manager Emily Weinstein. (Photo: EGI)

The Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) formally joined the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA) on Friday, October 21, 2011, in a meeting in Cambridge, MA, United States. Joining HSBA will bring EGI into a 101-year-old network of over 400 local and international organizations, universities, businesses and much more. EGI looks forward to developing relationships with members of HSBA and thanks HSBA's leadership for a warm welcome.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 BuildEthiopia Conference Successfully Held

Photo: Dawn Colquitt-Anderson Photography/EGI
Cambridge, Mass., United States, October 23, 2011 – The Ethiopian Global Initiative’s (EGI) 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference convened yesterday at Harvard University. BuildEthiopia brought a significant amount of students, educators, professionals, community organizers and policy makers together to seek solutions for the challenges Ethiopia faces.

BuildEthiopia began with an address from The Honorable David P. Maher, Mayor of the City of Cambridge, who welcomed attendees and expressed his enthusiasm in the relationship between the City of Cambridge and EGI. Mr. Kagnew F. Asfaw, the North America Regional Director of Ethiopian Airlines, followed Mayor Maher’s remarks by delivering the keynote address, which focused on the success of Ethiopian Airlines as an example of how Ethiopian-led businesses can thrive in Ethiopia using their intellectual capital.  

EGI’s President, Mr. Samuel M Gebru, also addressed attendees during the opening session. Mr. Gebru encouraged BuildEthiopia attendees to be thoughtful and active participants.  He stressed the importance of the six pillars of the BuildEthiopia Conference, and advised participants to network, collaborate, and motivate each other to create solutions during and after the event.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Update on Keynote Address by Ethiopian Airlines CEO

EGI regrets to inform participants of the upcoming 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference that Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, will not be able to deliver the keynote address.

Attributing his absence to urgent issues, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines expressed his regrets. "I feel very disappointed to miss the opportunity," said Mr. Gebremariam, adding, "It would have been a special privilege and honor for me to address such worthwhile event."

Mr. Kagnew F. Asfaw, North America Regional Director of Ethiopian Airlines, will deliver the keynote address on behalf of Ethiopia's national flag carrier. Online registration deadline is October 19 at 11:59pm EST. Read more here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Magic of a Bitten Apple

A picture taken of my MacBook and me in 2010.
By: Samuel M. Gebru (@smgebru)
October 5, 2011

In the world of technology, Steven P. Jobs is a common name. Along with his colleague and competitor William H. Gates, III, the two are some of the few at the helm of technology as godlike figures. And with due credit, too.

That was, until today. This evening over dinner, a classmate told me that Jobs passed away. I told him that he was bluffing and that Jobs just had cancer and retired from his role as Apple Inc.’s CEO. As I said that, I received breaking news email alerts confirming true what I hoped was false. Inspiringly, my twitter and facebook feeds are filled with status updates on his passing as I write this.

I will forever know Steve Jobs, amongst other reasons, as the man who wore the same type of blue jeans and black turtle neck every day. His swag became a brand of its own. Steve Jobs was a businessman who envisioned and innovated. He engineered the digital empire we know today as a bitten apple.

An activist and inspirational leader of many sorts, Jobs’ message of living life for today and making meaning of it on all accounts continues to inspire me. One can only hope to be in the ranks of amazing humans that have made an impact in how we think, operate and envision. Although he will be missed, his profound impact is in the “i” forever.

Samuel M. Gebru is President and Chairman of the Ethiopian Global Initiative.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conference Preparation is Building Up!

Preparation for the 2011 BuildEthiopia Conference is fully underway. We are especially grateful for the support we are receiving from the Harvard University African Students Association, our Venue Sponsor.

Today we confirmed our conference rooms and venue for October 22. We will be using Maxwell Dworkin Hall, Harvard University's home for the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as the conference venue. 

Maxwell Dworkin Hall was built in honor of the mothers of Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates, III and Microsoft President Steven A. Ballmer. As home of engineering and applied sciences, Maxwell Dworkin Hall symbolizes the importance of building Ethiopia though not only engineering but also envisioneering ideas for the future.

Click here for more information on the conference and to register online for free!

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.