Ashenafi EndaleNovember 15, 2020
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1min20050

Beyene Hailemeskel, is the former Director General of the Public Enterprises Holding and Administration Agency (PEHAA), which oversees 21 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Ethiopia. He joined the agency 20 years ago, gradually climbing the ladder to the top position. Beyene, who argues that state intervention remains a crucial driver of Ethiopia’s economy, stresses SOEs are undergoing deep reforms to the core. EBR paid audience to Beyene’s reflections on SOEs’ performance and futurity, weeks before he tendered his resignation at the end of October 2020.


Ashenafi EndaleOctober 15, 2020
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1min26520
Departing Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Tan Jian

Shortly after arriving on December 4, 2017, Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China to Ethiopia, Tan Jian became a dashing figure in Ethiopia’s development activities. Although his tenure matched a period of turbulence in Ethiopia, Tan Jian has had a successful diplomatic stay. His tenure overlapped with the political transition in Ethiopia and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, he succeeded in relentlessly pushing for the timely execution of projects, attracting more Chinese investment, and coordinating the fight against the pandemic. He is a popular media figure who reveals the Chinese side of stories, which he argues, are otherwise stereotyped by the West dominated media. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with him ahead of his end of tenure and departure at the end of September 2020.


Ashenafi EndaleOctober 15, 2020
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2min20890

William Asiko came to the helm of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office just in 2019. The foundation’s Managing Director is, however, not new to Africa’s development issues.

Asiko started his career as an attorney in the external resources department of the government of Kenya. He has worked for The Coca-Cola Company at various positions and in several countries including the USA, Morocco, UK, Kenya, and South Africa. He was also the Executive Director of Grow Africa, which was jointly established by the World Economic Forum, the African Union (AU), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to accelerate private sector investment into African agriculture. Asiko was also the CEO of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), a pan-African development organization.

Asiko earned a law degree from the University of Nairobi in 1987 and an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in the United States in 2005. EBR spoke to the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Africa Regional Office on various issues via zoom from his office based in Nairobi.


Tewedaj SintayehuAugust 30, 2020
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2min16260

It only took little Mohammed Nuri three years to complete the six grades in elementary school. These were early signs of him being an extra-ordinary student. He lived up to those early expectations when he passed the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE) with flying colors and joined Jimma Medical School at the tender age of sixteen. A kid from a poor family of not well-educated parents who came to Addis Ababa from a village in rural Ethiopia, Mohammed always sought to one day change their lives. The prime motivator behind Mohammed’s decision to join medical school was the relatively higher pay it offered. Medical doctors received a salary of ETB835 back then as opposed to about ETB600 for B.A holders in some other fields. When he was just a freshman, however, his mother passed away after the medication she needed could not be found following a surgical procedure. That moment of grief dawned on him the importance of raising the availability of pharmaceuticals in the country. By the time he graduated, Dr. Mohammed realized that it would be difficult to change things around with that salary. He declined an offer to teach at Jimma University and went into business instead.


Ashenafi EndaleAugust 30, 2020
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1min10070

Simegn Degu is the Director for Cement Industry Research and Technology Development at the Chemical and Construction Input Industry Development Institute (CIIDI). He has been leading several research projects that seek to solve bottlenecks in the cement industry and pave the way for the sector’s development. Simegn believes several factors, including artificial shortages and corporate management problems have contributed to the recent spike in the price of the commodity. He believes the recent administrative measures taken by the government are not going to give a long-term solution to the problem. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale sat down with him to understand what went wrong in the market, especially over the last six months.


Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020
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1min30320

Yohannes Ayalew Birru (PhD) is Deputy Director General and Head of Macroeconomic and Financial Policy Studies Cluster, at the Policy Studies Institute in Ethiopia. Between June and November 2018, he served as Executive Director of the Ethiopian Economic Policy and Research Institute.

Yohannes also served at the National Bank of Ethiopia for about 27 years, of which he served as the Vice Governor and Chief Economist of the National Bank of Ethiopia, a position he held for about nine years between 2009 and 2018. In total, Yohannes has 30 years of cumulative experience in the areas of finance, macroeconomic policy and economic growth. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale spoke to him about the problems in the financial sector.


Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020
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12min30191

This interview was published on EBR’s 89th edition, in August 2020. The publication ran two interviews: a pro-GMO article from the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR) and an argument from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI). However, following the publication, EIAR and the Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission (EFCCC) claimed EBI’s interview affects efforts of ensuring food security. The final paragraph of this version of the interview was excluded from the previous publication due to space shortage. EBR editorial apologizes for any inconveniences caused.


‘The Unwise Use of GMO Would Destroy Indigenous Biodiversity’

Melesse Maryo (PhD), Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute

Melesse Maryo (PhD) has been Director General of the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) since 2016/17. Before assuming his current position, he used to be Vice President for Research and Technology transfer at Dilla University. He is an Agro-ecologist, specializing in agro-biodiversity. He earned his PhD from Addis Ababa University (AAU). He is one of two bureau members (the other from Ghana) representing Africa in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Conference of Parties (COP), and International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). He is also a Board Member of the Ethiopian Agriculture Council and Gulele Botanical Garden.


What is your view on GMOs?

For over 80Pct of Ethiopia’s population, agriculture is the only source of livelihood. If you destroy biodiversity, you destroy the human population. There is a high probability that the unwise use of GMO would destroy indigenous biodiversity. Once we lose our natural biodiversity by employing underdeveloped technology, we cannot recover it. Those countries pushing for GMOs are 100Pct dependent on technology. For example, Korea can keep living with Samsung’s revenue. But Ethiopia has no such alternative once it destroys its agriculture.

Biotechnology represents an unnatural breeding system. For instance, experts may use a fish gene to produce cold-tolerant tomato. They make Humulin, a diabetes medicine, from human genes. Golden rice is made of carotene, which is metabolized and converted by the human eye to prevent night blindness. Golden rice is for malnourished children. It also enables people to see in the dark. This is what charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation give to children as vitamin droplets. This involves introducing plant genes into the animal genome.

Ethiopia is moving to adopt GMOs because we are unaware of our own biodiversity wealth. Ethiopia’s biodiversity has drought-resistant, pest-resistant, highly productive, nutritious, medicinal, and many other forms of genetic resources. Ethiopia is one of the eight origins and centers of biodiversity on earth. There are around 250,000 accessions of plant genetic resources conserved in gene banks in Africa. Ethiopia’s accession for crops and horticulture, without including the forest accession, constitutes one third of Africa’s total collection. Ethiopia has huge biodiversity resources. There are close to 5,600 coffee varieties and over 6,000 high altitude plant species in Ethiopia. Our biodiversity in animals has not been well explored taxonomically but its abundance is undeniable.

Ethiopian famers grow enset, beans, mango, cassava, and many more on small patches of land in their backyard. They ensure their own food security on less than a quarter of a hectare. Farmers of Wuhabit, around Raya in Tigrai, took drought resistant variety of wheat seed from the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) and succeeded in producing sufficient yield. Using participatory selection and breeding, they started to grow high-productivity wheat that uses minimal moisture. In a workshop organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, I remember hearing a report that mentioned over 60Pct of improved chicken breeds imported from abroad die early. If so, we better opt to use our own well-adapted breeds such as that in Amaro of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR). In this area of the country, there is a local chicken variety called ‘Amaro Doro’. It is so big to the extent that you struggle to carry it.

If Ethiopia succeeded in agroforestry practices as aspired, agricultural productivity and food security could reasonably be ensured. Irrigation and mechanization are also underdeveloped in Ethiopia. This implies that modernizing Ethiopia’s agriculture needs a holistic approach, not just reliant on GMOs. Research is a process that takes years. However, we haven’t exhaustively worked with indigenous varieties.

In my view, GMOs should be considered the last resort. They may affect the soil and indigenous crops. Encoded with pesticide genes, GMOs have a potential to kill other beneficial insect and microbial species that might be necessary for the ecosystem. For instance, it kills rhizobium which constitutes as a critical biofertilizer. There are reports showing that GMO plants can also kill butterflies and other insects. GMO promoters argue that it is ‘specific.’ However, they are not sure of those claims themselves. When GMO genes kill some insects and microbial forms, the natural food pyramid will ultimately be affected. Therefore, it poses a critical danger to the natural ecosystem.

Even the developed world (European countries) has finally decided to come back to nature. I participate on the meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), representing Ethiopia as a focal person. Under the umbrella of the convention, the world is currently working on a ‘nature-based solution’. This year’s theme of CBD is ‘our solution is in nature.’ This shows that the world is trying to find the way back to nature. However, GMO promoters like the USA still do not support this idea.

My fear generally is that GMO will destroy Ethiopia’s biodiversity that evolved over the last 10,000 years, surviving every kind of threat. Now we are to destroy that on the spot with a technology developed twenty years ago. We cannot recover the indigenous biodiversity, once it goes out of our hands.

Ethiopia’s proclamation shifted from denouncing GMO to promoting it between 2009 and 2015. What was the reason behind the sudden change of policy?

It is the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), emphasizing food security and maximizing agricultural productivity, that is in favor of using GMOs. I watched on Youtube institutions such as parliament, EIAR, and the Ethiopian Bio-Technology Institute (EBTI) visited Indian GMO farms; and this probably laid the ground for the amendment of the proclamation without proper public consultations. The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) also had a role in the move towards GMOs in Ethiopia. From the get-go, I believe the establishment of the ATA was in relation to endorsing GMOs in Ethiopia. Some Ethiopian agricultural experts are also behind the scenes. I cannot see government putting the GMO topic up for debate in universities, the media, and with the public at large.

EBI was not consulted properly by government institutions and this closed the possibility to look for alternatives before going to GMOs. They did not even talk to us on this topic. I even nagged and begged them to work with EBI first.

Why is GMO promoted in developing countries while advanced countries are banning it?

USA, unlike the majority of countries around the world, is not a ratifier of the CBD protocols. It rejected the Paris climate change accord. USA is not a member of the CBD. So, why should Ethiopia adopt GMOs even at a time when some EU member countries, that have sophisticated technologies, are turning their back against it?

How far can EBI can go to discourage GMOs in Ethiopia, with perspective to protecting indigenous biodiversity?

EBI’s director and the deputy cannot influence GMOs, but our researchers can. I cannot contradict a law approved by the parliament. Civil societies and researchers can oppose the GMO law. EBI has the authority to go and assess the impact of GMOs on the environment, once GMOs are commercialized and cultivated in open farms. But to this point, government has been telling us GMOs are in confined trials and we have no information whether it has been commercialized or not. If farmers complain or we discover that GMOs are affecting the environment, I can give a press announcement, boldly. To do so, I must see it first or have it assessed by our researchers. EBI’s proclamation allows us to follow-up and control any impact on indigenous biodiversity and the environment. Thus far, we have no evidence or information GMO has been commercialized because the process is closed, even for us.


9th Year • August 1 – 15 2020 • No. 89


Ashenafi EndaleAugust 15, 2020
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1min26160
Tadesse Daba, (phD) Director of Biotechnology Research at EIAR

Tadesse Daba (PhD) is Director of Biotechnology Research at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), where he worked for over 20 years. He holds a PhD in Enzyme Biotechnology from Kyoto University, japan. Apart from witnessing the state of biotechnology in labs around the world, especially in USA and Europe, Tadesse currently works with major biotechnology institutions in Africa, including: the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) based in Kenya, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT), International Potato Center (CIP), and Michigan State University, among others. Tadesse underlines GMO is the best and safest instrument for countries like Ethiopia to detach from the vicious circles of poor agricultural output and food insecurity.


Ashenafi EndaleJuly 30, 2020
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2min26590
EABSC Gazes at the Sunshine Across from the Discomfort of the Eye of the Storm

Daryl Wilson, CEO of East African Bottling Share Company (EABSC), arrived in Ethiopia just last year. Originally from south Africa, he was Managing Director of Nairobi Bottlers of Kenya for nine years before coming to Ethiopia. With 27 years in the business, Daryl Wilson has seen the troughs and the picks of the industry even before the turn of the century. He is already overseeing construction of two epic factories in Hawassa and Sebeta with an outlay of a staggering USD300 million. The two factories will triple the volume of coke products in Ethiopia, besides launching new products. He says Ethiopia is the fastest growing beverage consumer market in Africa. Nonetheless, the humorous CEO is not all that excited. The company already lost over 15Pct of its sales revenue due to the new Ethiopian excise tax regime and COVID-19. EBR’s Ashenafi Endale spoke to the CEO on various issues.


Ashenafi EndaleJuly 15, 2020
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1min28540
Mussie Mindaye, Ethiopia’s Top Expert and Negotiator in AfCFTA

Muse Mindaye has been Ethiopia’s top expert and negotiator in the African Continent Free Trade Agreement negotiation forum since the beginning of the effort to create a single African market. He is also director of Multilateral Trade Relation and Negotiation at the Ethiopian Ministry of Trade and Industry. An Economist in profession, Mussie predicts the hour of Africa’s economic redemption against globalization is at the door, only clouded by COVID-19. EBR spoke to him to further understand what Ethiopia would benefit from AfCFTA and how the future will look with the implementation of the agreement.



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