By Phillip Barea
Addis Ababa, January 29, 2011 (Ezega.com) -- In recent weeks representatives of both the Ethiopian Diaspora and the Ethiopian Government met in order to discuss the relationship between the two. They also entered into serious talks about Ethiopia´s development, as well as government policies regarding the rights of Diaspora Ethiopians and future investments in the country.
The potential role of the Diaspora in the government´s new development and transformation plan has been highlighted by some observers. Moreover, some believe it is already a crucial component of the country´s current development process.
In order to investigate the Diaspora perspective further, Ezega.com met with two Diaspora returnees in Addis Ababa and asked them about their recent return to Ethiopia and investment here.
Resettlement in Ethiopia
Abiy Belachew left Ethiopia in 1982 to pursue higher education in America, and at the same time find a better life than the one available in Ethiopia at the time.
After 27 years of a comfortable and successful life in the United States, Abiy returned to Addis Ababa and opened his own business. He created the Lulit Internet Café, named after his daughter. Most recently, his wife and daughter left the United States to permanently join him here in Ethiopia.
Abebe Kassa, another returnee, left Ethiopia in 1989 in order to reunite with his relatives that had already emigrated to America. Although he did not experience personal hardship under the Derg regime, he did find a much better life in the United States.
Thoughts of home combined with a desire to start his own business eventually brought Abebe back to Addis Ababa. Upon his return he opened the Arsidera Flour Factory, which has grown into a very successful business.
Abiy and Abebe both described their experience of resettling in Ethiopia and starting their own businesses as pleasant and relatively easy. Specifically, they mentioned government tax incentives for Diaspora returnees and accommodating licensing procedures.
They also commented that there was very little culture clash or feelings of discrimination as they assimilated back into Ethiopian society and daily life. In fact, they were very happy to be able to reconnect with their roots.
Development and Transformation
When asked about the new development and transformation plan presented by the government in recent months, both gentlemen had somewhat different reactions. Initially they did agree that Ethiopia has developed greatly since the time when they had left, and they both agreed that there was still much to do in the country.
Abebe felt that the plan was a very good idea and timely. Moreover, he was very hopeful for its successful implementation. He is basically pleased with the government’s recent initiatives and commitment to the development of Ethiopia.
Abiy was more skeptical. Although he agreed that the plan was an important step forward, he doubted the possibility of a successful implementation of the plan due to the difficulties and complexities involved. He also thought that some other public policies should be reevaluated and readjusted before trying to implement such a plan.
Should Others Return?
In concluding the discussion with Ezega.com, both gentlemen strongly agreed that they would encourage others living in the various Diaspora communities to return to Ethiopia and invest here.
When asked if it was a good time to return and invest, Abiy stated very strongly that: “This is the right time…the train is going and if you don´t catch it at this speed you will miss it”.
Phillip Barea is Addis Ababa based reporter for Ezega.com. He can be reached by sending email through this form.