While idealistically, we all know where we wish Ethiopia to be headed, to make positive, productive decisions every day is not an easy matter. Not only the government but everyone in society has to do their part to help Ethiopia's dreamers and innovators to flourish, writes Hanna Haile in this week's View from Arada.

On a grim rainy Addis evening, I sat talking to a friend of my brother’s; he said, “this is my last trip to Ethiopia, I am done.” This surprising declaration comes from a young man that has been investing in Ethiopia for 10 years. This was his last stretch, exclaiming “Ethiopia has potential everyone can see but very few can touch.” He left Ethiopia once and for all.

Ethiopia’s population is estimated at 104 million, with 41pc under the age of 15. More than 28pc are aged 15 to 29. Youth unemployment is estimated at nearly 27 percent, according to the USAID Fact Sheet from 2017.

Aid agencies and the government attempt to curb the exodus of youth, but even with their massive resources, they have not been able to stop the far reach of brokers and traffickers. This is not a new tragedy. It is simply one we have not addressed efficiently. Ethiopians are still dying at sea in search of a better life and a meaningful purpose.

On one occasion, an acquaintance mentioned to me his plans to make an illegal journey through Libya. I was distraught at his decision, yet relieved that he was seeking advice before taking on this desperate journey. He mentioned the night school degree he had been working on and how he was not paid enough at his current job. He said, “I thought getting this degree was going to change things for me.”

Four years of night school and multiple self-help seminars later, he was still in the same position he had started and desperate for change. He was tired of being offered ways for a better life, which in fact did not pan out. With multiple ploys from family and friends, he stayed in Ethiopia and eventually found something to be passionate about. It was not always about the money but finding a sense of purpose.

The pragmatism of addressing unemployment with innovation is at a standstill, as internet shuts off and regulations breath in and out of parliament. We learn that it is no longer about merely getting degrees, and depending on the government or aid for solutions, it is about giving space to those who already have solutions at hand. As people leave Ethiopia legally or illegally, the big picture is that they are giving up.

Innovative ideas have tremendous potential to tackle our unemployment dilemma. With dynamic local initiatives like the Information and Communication Technology Expo displaying bold themes like Innovate Ethiopia, and Innovate Africa taking place in Addis Abeba, we see a pattern.

Beyond the technological understanding, innovation is the improvement of processes. While most implement innovative measures to maintain the cultural status quo, how about using those same tools to encourage change?

In recognising that innovative changes to better Ethiopian lives takes time and energy, we have some who are invested for the long haul. And the failure lies in the government and society at large not supporting them enough.

But creatives like the photographer Aida Muluneh are doing their share. She pushed her own artistry while inspiring young people to develop successful photography careers.

Music producer Rophnan has not only become successful but is taking the time to educate youth on the music production industry. He is at the forefront of initiating young people into what success in the arts can be. Our nation needs varied industries that can employ and inspire.

Betelhem Dessie, who is the youngest tech pioneer, and is currently working on projects that highlight youth innovation and investment all over Ethiopia, is another one.

Samrawit Fikru of Ride and Feleg Tsegaye’s Deliver Addis are behind two innovative applications that have created opportunities for change. Even with an idea of keeping costs low, employment and convenience high, both have faced so many trials and tribulations from society as well as the government

While idealistically, we know where we wish Ethiopia to be headed, to make positive, productive decisions each day is not easy. But what these individuals and their companies have done is believe in Ethiopians. It is this type of steadfast faith that is keeping our nation together.

While it would be too easy to point fingers at the government failing to assist these innovators, it is also the responsibility of many others in the society at large. There are sectors that have flourished within Ethiopia who seem only keen at lining their own pockets. Ethiopia needs its dreamers and problem solvers, not only those with flashy cars and attitudes.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 24,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1008]

Hanna Haile is the founder of Zellan Creative & Cultural Center. She can be reached at (hannahaile212@gmail.com).

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