Second National Ethiopian Diaspora Festival

2 Aug 2016

The Second National Diaspora Festival (NEDF), was celebrated in Bahir Dar from 28th July to 2nd August. The annual event provides a platform for the Ethiopian Diaspora Community (EDC) to see and assess development, discuss with key officials and explore opportunities in Ethiopia.

Organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this year’s Festival was celebrated with panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, presentations on investment opportunities and discussions on development issues like the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Foreign Ministry Diaspora Affairs Director General, Demeke Atnafu, said Ethiopia had secured $4 billion from diaspora members living in various countries in the last year and they “are also contributing a lot to the development of the nation through remittances to support their families and various organisations.” But he added that their engagement is low compared to other countries, though their participation in trade, investment and other sectors is growing and “they are contributing their share in increasing the foreign currency reserves through opening accounts.”

Demeke strongly urged the diaspora to actively take part in the development of the country, putting aside ideological differences. Diaspora member Dr Yohannes Gebresilassie, who engages in various development activities in the Somali State, said diaspora participation is low just now, though there is an enabling investment climate. He noted that Ethiopia is growing “amazingly” and “it is good if the diaspora community becomes part of this success story.

“There are over two million Ethiopian diaspora living in North America and Canada and I do believe this large number could make a miracle [happen] by engaging in industries, electronics and ICT sectors, sharing their technological skill and expertise to bring about change in the country,” he said.

Chiropractor Selam Aklilu, who used to live in California and is now working in Ethiopia, said the government is doing an encouraging job. “I think many diaspora want to return and contribute to the development of the country. Investing in Ethiopia has an immense socio-economic benefit and having exposure to advanced knowledge and technologies, the diaspora will make a difference in national development.” “I am happy with the progress that we are making. I returned home following an invitation at the palace. After all, home is home. We need to favour Ethiopia for it is the only home we have.” The The Festival wrapped up on 2nd August, in the presence of Prime Minister Hailemariam (pictured), a range of other ministers, high-level government officials and members of the Ethiopian Diaspora Community. The PM answered questions from festival participants on a wide range of issues. He thanked them for having participated in the Festival, sacrificing their valuable time. He stated that “Ethiopia is a country that has started to emerge out of poverty [as a result of] the policies and strategies of the government. In the last 25 years, Ethiopia has registered rapid and sustainable economic development.”

He added that Ethiopia faces global challenges “which is why the government is paying special attention to human resources development.” He said “If we cannot commonly fight against rent-seeking and chauvinism, we might not be able to relish our developmental achievements or else realize our aspirations for prosperity.” He called upon the EDC to invest in the Information and Technology (ICT) sector in Ethiopia. Speaking of the problem of human trafficking, PM Hailemariam stated that, “even if we have worked very hard to minimize the phenomenon, people who don’t have jobs will still be tempted to move out of the country under illegal circumstances.” To curb the problem, he remarked, “we should work towards the creation of more jobs if we are to stop human trafficking on a long-lasting basis.” The PM reiterated that, “It’s with the active participation of the people – citizen activism – that rent-seeking and corruption could effectively be abated. The government should create a platform in which citizens could participate freely.” “We’ve a moral as well as spiritual obligation to invest in and develop Ethiopia. I appeal to you to continue your support to Ethiopia”, the Premier added.

The City of Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Nations’, Nationalities’ and Peoples’ Regional State, will host the 3rd NEDF next year.

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