Monday, October 29, 2012

Dispatches from Addis Ababa: 4 Days of Conference Proceedings, Visit to the AU HQ and Ethiopian Nights

FES last week brought together young leaders from East and Central Africa for a four days conference in Addis Ababa. This conference incorporated presentations from guest speakers, deliberations from the participants and a visit to the African Union Headquarters. In we had dinners so as to socialize and get to know about each other’s countries in an informal setting.
Kenya was ably represented by a contingent of five [three gents and two ladies] who hail from various backgrounds. This was my first time in Addis and in the wake to the visit I had got different perspectives as to what to expect in Addis Ababa. Some of the things I had been told to expect turned out to be true while others we’re NOT. 
Better Understanding of East African Region
One of my main take-away from this conference is a better understanding of this region. I greatly appreciated presentations and talking to Rwandan delegation. This folks have a lot going on in their country. I also learnt of their two months initiative where they crowd source monies from the populace to fill in the gaps of donor money. I thought this is a pretty good nation building tool where you have folks from all social structure contributing money to build their nation. I also got to appreciate the leadership of HE Paul Kagame. The folks in Rwanda approach things in a different way as opposed to us!

The Southern Sudan delegation also caught my eye. The delegation was made up of US and British educated young lads. These guys also are NOT politicized as we are and are time conscious and have a western look. We talked at length with this delegation and I got an insider’s perspective into happening in Juba.

The other insights generated are how outsiders perceive Kenyans especially Ugandan’s. The Uganda delegation had this joke
 ‘I have finished my diner as fast as the swearing ceremony of Kenya’s president’
If you are an Investor Ethiopia is the place
In Addis Ababa you will not miss seeing rapid infrastructure development. Just to drive the point home from my hotel lobby I was able to spot more than ten building being out up. Also during our visit to the AU hq we saw the building of Sheraton Hotel next to the AU hq.
However, this said I experienced problems of changing my foreign currency. If you are visiting Ethiopia then it is best advised you change your currency at the airport. Otherwise you risk exchanging your cash in the black market which charges a premium of about 10%.
In terms of the media I had a look at the hotel newspaper and it seems very small and only does reportage with very few opinion pieces.
The town has a huge Chinese influx. The road from the airport is being constructed by the Chinese.
China Aid Plaque at AU Hq
The African Union Visit
There is lots happening at the African Union and as a citizenry we should ask for more reporting. I learned of the ‘I am African Project’ there plus in my opinion there are lots of opportunities which Kenya can tap into at the AU.
I am African Project
In the arts, I was able to see a quite a few paintings which had been donated by Northern African states namely Egyptian & Algerian government.
Art at the AU Hq
Ethiopian Nights
Ethiopians unlike Kenyan’s really appreciate their culture and you will notice despite the economic growth the country is experiencing it is still a melting pot of rich traditions. In fact most of the Ethiopians prefer to speak in their dialect and English I came to learn is taught from secondary level of education.
Ethiopian Nights
Bottom Line
Young leader and youth should be given more chances to interact so that the region can forge cohesion from an early age. If it could be possible to begin such initiatives from as back as high school it would be great. Also, more chances for citizens from Africa to visit the AU HQ’s are needed.

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