The New Year in Ethiopia brings with it a chance for rejuvenation, and for some lucky people, the chance to win a lot of money. However, many lottery winners don’t stay in the public eye, leading many to wonder what they did with the money they won. Even though everyone who buys a ticket seems to have some kind of plan for what they would do if they won, EBR’s Menna Asrat tried to find out what the reality is for those who strike it rich on these games of chance. 


Mehammed Baderga, a father of two who lives in Wolkite, a town in south-western Ethiopia used to earn ETB750 monthly salary until last year. Mehammed in his mid 40s allocates ETB300 out of his salary to cover his rent expense, while the remaining used for to cover his family monthly needs. His limited income, which puts Mehammed and his family in the harsh conditions of poverty, even compelled his wife to leave her children and husband out of frustration. 

Nothing prepared him for the fortune he was about to receive on September 1, 2017. Yet, Mehammed learned that he was a winner of New Year’s lottery, which turned his life into a fairy tale. In fact, he became the first person in Ethiopia to win ETB10 million prize. 

In a country with a population of more than 100 million people, every year, around 100 million lottery tickets are sold to the public even if the chances of winning the lottery are infinitesimal. But, luck can strike at any time, and for many of the winners, it was when they least expected it. 

One of them was Eyob Birhanu, a 42-year old former cross country truck driver, who won two million birr in the New Year’s lottery two years ago. The father of one, who has worked the route from Addis to Djibouti for many years, was having breakfast one morning in Metehara, a town almost 188 kilometres from Addis Ababa.  “A kid came up to me asked me to buy a lottery ticket from him,” Eyob told EBR. “It was very hot and the boy looked like he hadn’t eaten, so I bought a ticket.”

What started as an act of kindness to a stranger ended up being Eyob’s big day, and the start of a new life for him and his family. “My family lives in Addis, and I thought, we’ve had enough of the problems that come with renting. So I bought a small house for ETB700,000. I also bought a Dolphin minibus, and now I work as a taxi driver.” 

Mehammed and Eyob are among the hundreds of people all over the country whose lives were changed by a chance win on a lottery. Established around 57 years ago the National Lottery Administration of Ethiopia, runs16 lotteries and games of chance. Some, like the New Year and Christmas lotteries are linked to holiday celebrations. Others are year round. With jackpots of up to and over ETB10 million, lotteries has always been a popular way for the city’s residents to test their luck. 

In the past three years, the number of lucky winners is also rising, according to the information obtained from the Administration. While 11 individuals took more than a million birr worth of prizes, 30 people also won lottery games last year. In the first 10 months of 2017/18 fiscal year, 20 people were lucky enough to receive big prizes. With the rising number of winners, the prize money also increased from ETB280.3 million in 2015/16 fiscal year to ETB301.5 in 2016/17. Close to ETB240 million birr was also given to winners in the first nine months of 2017/18. 

Many of these winners dreams of winning the lottery and changing their lives once and for all. But it doesn’t always turn out like that. Mebratu Alemu, a 45-year old civil servant and a father of one who won one million birr on the New Year’s lottery two years ago, is one of the winners who spend money lavishly and find themselves in trouble. He usually buys lottery tickets, but with his lucky ticket, he was finally able to address some of the issues that had been plaguing his and his family for years. “The first thing I did was to take the money to a bank,” he says. “But then I quit my job and bought automobile with ETB500,000 while I spent the rest unwisely.”

Two years after winning the lottery, Mebratu is currently planning to sell his automobile in order to sustain his family. “I am also planning to get a job,” he told EBR. “My carelessness cost me so much more.”

Even though the previous winders of the lottery aren’t in the public eye in a big way, their stories do demonstrate that some people who have won millions ends up blowing the lot with little or nothing to show for it. On the other hand, others managed to change their lives forever for as little as ETB10 a ticket, and address some of the issues they grapple with every day.

6th Year . Sep 16  - Oct 15 2018 . No.66



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