This week I was again in Ethiopia and asked my friend and accountant Tibebe:
“How will the Ethiopian economy develop after the May elections?”
He simply said: “As always, if it rains we will be ok”.
This shows how much Ethiopia still depends on agriculture. And it shows how important it is to create jobs that are independent from agriculture. Today over 90% of working Ethiopians are farmers and the slightest problem with weather conditions leads to big problems and eventually starvation.
Some other practical problems I experienced this time:
- the bureaucracy of Ethiopia does not value enough small companies and start-ups. Our coffee roaster in Addis Ababa has big problems to buy small quantities of green coffee for Solino. The reason is the new coffee stock exchange (ECX) where from now on all coffee must be traded. Rules are strict and minimum quantities often too high for small companies!
- I tried to reprint our coffee packaging in Ethiopia. Also this was a big problem – many printers were simply not interested. Why? People told me, that such printing companies often receive so much foreign aid, that they are actually not eager to fight for new business. It confirms what Dambisa Moyo and her book Dead Aid claims: Aid does not work, it destroys initiative and self responsibility! (at the end I did manage to find a printer that was happy to produce the new Solino Box, see photo).
- My partner in the mushroom spawn industry, Tilahun Zegeye told me another story: last week he tried to buy 1000 glass bottles for his production. The producer was simply not willing to sell him this small amount, even though he had the product on stock. He said minimum order is 100.000 pieces. Again a sign of de-motivation.
So I hope that:
- more private investment goes to Ethiopia and more jobs will be created by Ethiopians themselves.
- aid money stops to be spent in a useless way.
- Western countries buy more value added products in Ethiopia, not just raw materials.
But I also had nice experiences: our Solino coffee continues to improve in quality after the new harvest and we are working on new organic leather for the wallets.
And the mushroom spawn sales are increasing thanks to the ever increasing number of Chinese in Ethiopia who love to eat mushrooms!