Underrated Country Fares Terribly in the Eyes of Its People

Aug 1 , 2020
By Eden Sahle

A friend has a daughter who married an Egyptian man a decade ago. Since she moved to Cairo with her husband, her parents often travel there to visit the couple and their four grandchildren. They are fascinated by the history and beauty of the country but most of all by how almost every Egyptian is well-informed of the history of their country, and even that of Ethiopia, source of the Nile River.

Inspired by this, I reached out to children, teenagers and their parents, 100 in all, to find out if the case is similar in Ethiopia. What I found was worse than I anticipated. Not only did most of them have major gaps in their understanding of the history of the country, but they did not show interest in knowing about it.

They were frustrated with the country. They did not believe that the country belongs to them but to the few elites that seem to control what goes on. Parents pass on these perceptions to their children to whom the sole ambition has been to craft ways to flee the country.

No doubt, this is understandable. We all wish to be in a country where there is peace and certainty. Still, the wrongful presentation of the country to Ethiopians themselves as backward, poor, divided and full of never abating political problems is unjustifiable.

There is more to the country. It has potential, resources, cultures, diverse communities and a landscape that deserves credit.

Such a misguided view has continued to cost the country more than just a skilled human workforce. The poverty and stagnant economic development have remained, because most want to run away instead of fighting for the betterment of the nation. Children are not encouraged by parents and schools to have a deep and sophisticated knowledge of the history of their country and its peoples. They are taught what is on the surface, the failures and very little of the potential.

This has become a perpetuating problem. Millennials are growing up to become just as disappointed with what the country has to offer as their predecessors and assume that they will only find success if they leave everything behind. The lack of certainty, law and order and the promise of a better future is all they see. It has become difficult for many to discern the country from its dysfunctional politics.

Living in Ethiopia with all the endless problems requires more than just a brave heart. But the country needs our contribution to change for the better. It is important to criticise and reflect on what is going on. But if we looked deeply enough, it is indeed possible to find some hope and inspiration in Ethiopia. This can only come if we manage to look at the country and its peoples, instead of the politics that has come to overshadow them, by learning the history.

For anyone that does learn the history, it is clear, for instance, that there is much to be optimistic about when it comes to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which successfully concluded its first year filling target. It is the first step taken to use its equitable usage right within the Nile Basin and an indication of the kind of regional power Ethiopia can become.

When we bring our misconceptions into the history of the country, it would be hard to recognise the importance of such an achievement. Without a recognition of the past and present achievements of the country, and its failures as well, Ethiopia’s hope lies in our determination, sacrifices and hard work to make things better for all of us and for the coming generation.

An interest in seeing the improvement of the country’s people can only be created if we refocus the way we perceive the country. This could happen if parents, schools and institutions can create awareness about the country, and represent it accurately without its politics. The untapped potential of the nation and the fact that its unpleasant reality is not set in stone can only be recognised if we care enough to glimpse deeper.

The political tit for tat should not colour how we think about this country and its people. The 100 Ethiopians I have spoken to, who came from different backgrounds, may not represent the entire mindset of the country, but they reflect what is a major problem for the country: a lack of accurate information about the history as well as an interest in it.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 01,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1057]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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