Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have been travelling to Addis Ababa since 2008 owing to work related assignments. In 2008, the number of visits were one which increased to 2 in 2009 and subsequently to 3 in 2010. With the passage of each year the duration of stay in Addis has also increased. Each time, I have observed certain things that have accumulated in the store house of my inventory. With this time’s visit, I felt that the inventory is now upto its brim and so it is waiting to splurge on in these pages. Hence forth this write up was born. This write up is a summary of various observations that I gathered seeing things all around addis. Those observations have been categorized under certain fields and domains which are as follows -

My work on behalf of South South Cooperation Initiatives of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi) has allowed me to liaison with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Such an exposure has been very helpful for me in learning how policy relevant research is streamlined into decision making process of Africa Union through United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This assignment has given the opportunity to learn more about the work which is being done on Climate Policy and other pertinent areas of sustainable development. Discussions with ECA colleagues has been very fruitful in terms of its intellectual content. And the best part of those discussions has been that they never got bounded by the terms of reference of our official work. So the discussions started from a particular topic and then went all around and travelled to sociopolitical, economic and other issues that are extremely relevant in today’s context of Africa. Specifically one of the discussions, which I cherish was in Dr. Wane's house during a dinner invitation. I was fortunate enough to be invited in that dinner which had the presence of some important policy decision makers at the AU level. In the course of the dinner discussion, I was being asked by all people over there about TERI. It was a nice feeling to talk about TERI in front of the people in that dinner invitation and finally the most comprehending part was when all of them appreciated and praised what TERI is doing in the area of sustainable development. All eminent people in that dinner invitation passed on their regards and support for our Director General and institute Directors and asked me to convey their regards to them. I felt extremely proud at that instance. It was in this dinner meeting we got into a discussion regarding the politics in Africa and also on dynamics of the political relations in South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan. Most of the people in the dinner had wide knowledge on art and culture and so I shared the grief that how culturally India and Pakistan are so bounded but still politically we have not been able to be united. Then the discussion went onto facts based historical discourse between India and Pakistan relations. It is at this point, one eminent individual from African Union (who was present in the dinner) brought in the issue of conflicts in Africa. It was an hour long discussion with him and learnt a lot on the AU process, its dynamics from him. Dr. Cheik, who is a well known agroeconomist and my friend brought in his view points on what he has seen during his travels in conflict ridden Sudan. Their eyes were sparkling while discussing these issues as was mine while discussing about India Pakistan relations.

For the sake of the limited space of this article, I wont ponder more on the work aspect but rather would go into some other sets of observations.

The best thing about Addis has been the warmth, affection that I have received from most of the people there apart from one instance about which I will talk later. Before going to Addis, I had made a plan that which are the circles where I need to go and interact with people to know more about the place and its people. As a follow up action point of that, I have visited churches, Islamic preying ocassions, stadiums, gyms, dance sessions, music sessions, live music sessions, shopping complexes, coffee shops, movie halls, seminars etc. From all these places I have tried to observe the people and learn more about them by observing them. Also in the UN complex, have met people from various countries during lunch and learnt extensively on different work areas that different divisions of UN is engaged in. Some of the people who became the support framework during the stay are – Tamaret, Jeremy, Joachim, Esthera, Bruke, Dr. Mikru, Dr. Hamid, Khatija, Hailu, Behailu, Dr. Wane, Dr. Medhat el Helaphi, Dr. Chiek, Malaku. Dr. Hamid had already left for Oman. In addition to this there are many other people who I have met in various institutes, university, Indian Cultural Association, Government of Ethiopia – Harar Region. Various people have helped in each step from getting a house to opening bank account. Also have met many Indian professors in Addis Ababa University working extensively on several domains pertaining to sustainable development.

Now I would move on from the micro aspect of people to a larger macro domain of the economy of the country -

The economy of Ethiopia relies on a large extent to coffee, sesame and soyabean exports. The transition from agriculture to industry has not yet taken place to that extent. Although many Chinese engineering farms have been coming into Ethiopia. But they have not yet started a full scale production of industrial goods. So the economy is still very much dependent on agricultural goods export although over the years the country has become a net food importing country. Service sector doesnot contribute to a large part of the economy. Many Chinese and Indian companies are working in this country and have employed people from this country as well as their own nation to contribute to service sector of this country.
So major part of the earning for the country is through its exports. Local beer production also contributes to growth of this country. Bioethanol production from sugarcane has started lately. Earning of any country dependent on agricultural products would depend on the climatic and geographical conditions of the country. So understanding of the economy could be done through learning the existing geographical conditions of the country. The only way to do that is through understanding the geography of the country. Thus to understand the geography of the country, I started travelling across various directions from Addis with the help of Bruke. Bruke took me around every Sunday in various directions from Addis Ababa . The next segment highlights the observations during those radial travels from Addis.

Radial travels included going towards south, east, north, north-west of Addis and each time the experience was very different. Even before highlighting the findings of radial travels outside Addis, I would like to detail out some of the findings that I had through roaming around in Addis. A summary statistics of the housing pattern by roaming around in Addis revealed that mostly 40% of the housing arrangements are slums, 30% belonged to houses which could be taken by middle class people, 20% for elite people and 10% for people living in condemoniums belonging to people in transition from middle class to the upper segments. This analysis can be misleading as it is only based on the assumption that the kind of housing in which the people live is an indicator of their class status which might not be true in certain cases. But still this distribution statistics is an indicator of the existing class structure within the city of Addis. People from various regions of Ethiopia also migrate to Addis and they are of very different nature. For many of them who are migrating from north west side to Addis Ababa it becomes very difficult owing to the roads. The roads in the north west are “Kaccha” and it takes almost 3 days for people to travel from north west of Ethiopia to Addis on bus, car to travel more than 200 kms. I got a hint of that while travelling with Bruke towards north west of Addis. We started from Addis but could proceed only for a few kms owing to the worse conditions of the road. But this was starkly different in east, north of Addis where the roads were good. Roads on the east have been built by firms from China whereas the one on the north were constructed by some European firms. I liked the road towards north, which was a zig zag one through some mountains and then the road glides down to a plain land with long stretches of green highlands all around the road reminding of Switzerland. The same green highlands and mountains could be seen while travelling to Sebeta mountains which had the source of the mineral water. Mineral water from these mountains are packed and sold as “Yes” mineral water in Addis. Bruke showed me the mineral water processing plant in Sebeta mountains also.

Richness in music, art and culture of this continent has been felt by me every time in these last few months. And they were felt in the amazing Jazz concerts, lively music related discussions with musicians, choreographers, colleagues. A brush painting through the canvas of art, music, culture traversed from the fusion music of West Africa with jazz, blues to rich folk music of Fulani, Sahelian tribes. Also it touched the sculpture art of Osamanu Saw of Senegal to many artists of Ethiopia. It also saw the music evolution of TEDDY AFRO, Makossa form of music, experimentations of Richard Bona, Baubacore Triore, Diabete, Baba Gal. Such richness was enhanced by the skills displayed in the live performances of musicians from Ethio Color, Nubic Arc, Habesha Beatz. Also to understand the future generation of the country, I visited the graduation ceremony in Addis where saw the positive energies of youth. Those ceremonies were marked by rich Salsa music in which I also participated. My friend, choreographer, music teacher Behailu had invited me in that ceremony to see and understand the pulse of the feelings of future generation. Energy from Salsa was spread all around that ceremony and actually it violated the law of conservation of energy. As it was not constant or conserved, rather it was constantly created and dissipated. So there was a continuous construction, deconstruction of energy. Sometimes the positive energy were getting dissipated and then it was giving birth to a new one. It is quite true that every positive energy when born inside has a negative source as its origin or creates its own termination for future streams of positive energies. One such form of dissipative source of energy vibration I got while taking an evening walk. It came from three young guys who were hardly 23 – 24 and seemed to be from a well off family. The next segment skims through that experience -

These three guys who were from a very well off family passed on a nasty comment being smitten by the cool consumerism and after getting drunk that state of mind increased which instigated them to pass on a comment on all people walking along the road which included me on that particular day. But after listening to their comments and chuckles for quite sometime had to get back to them and told them to say sorry for their behavior. I would not have done that if these people were not blessed with all the wealth, resources that many people donot have. But when I have met those people on roads who donot have so much, they are so sweet, sensitive and generate a compassionate feeling. What I realized was that “The Cool Consumerism” of the world in some ways is making sensitivity a dilapidated state of mind. If this hits the future generation of this continent then it cannot be good for human civilization. It is the sensitivity of the future generation, their compassion for people who are not blessed with the resources and benefits in this part of the world can bring wellfaristic change. So stood there and kept on persevering with the three guys requesting them to say atleast sorry for their behavior to the people of their own country. All the people around supported me and finally two of them said sorry. But this incident taught me that this growing trend of “Cool Consumerism” that has hit many countries including India has the virus of making the young generation cushioned, ignorant to the sensitivities and sufferings of their neighbourhood. And that could be a cause for larger internal strife which the world cannot afford at this instance. So there is a need to strike the right balance to have the exposure to the clean breeze of all cultures without loosing the sensitivity about country people and the positivities of traditionalities. The future to strike peace, cooperation in this world lies in getting a balance between the traditionalities, exposures to cross fertilization of cultures which is very essential. But at what degree it should happen to strike an optimality would be only expressed by the coming generation and time.

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