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Country of the Week: Ethiopia
November 21, 2017

Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa. It is recognized as the birthplace of mankind, and archaeological finds from the region date back more than 3 million years. The country’s rich history—including the kingdom of Aksum, the legend of Queen Sheba, and the spread of Christianity—cultivated Ethiopia’s unique cultural identity, a blend of ancient traditions, modern development, and extensive ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. In contemporary times, the country—the only in Africa to have never been colonized—has served as a symbol of African independence, was a founding member of the United Nations, and is the host of the African Union.

Ethiopia is also a country of beautiful, contrasting landscapes. Located in the Horn of Africa, the country’s fertile jungles, snaking rivers, high mountain ranges, vast lakes, sweeping deserts, and lush highlands comprise a land as diverse as its people.

Throughout the last few decades, Ethiopia has developed at a rapid pace. An increasingly educated population, improving infrastructure, reduced poverty rates and increased foreign investment have transformed the country’s economy into one of the fastest-growing in the world. You and other members of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network have been vital to Ethiopia’s success, and continue to build a better future through acts of service and education.

This week, we’re following three inspiring YALI Network members who are empowering young students, learning business skills, and addressing climate change. Read on to learn more about them.

Empowering young students

Frehiwot Negash donates supplies to students at Addis Tesfa kindergarten and primary school in #CountryoftheWeek Ethiopia.
Frehiwot Negash donates supplies to students at Addis Tesfa kindergarten and primary school in #CountryoftheWeek Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, there is a well-known proverb: “Fifty lemons are a load for one person, but for fifty people they are perfume.” YALI Network member Frehiwot Negash, from Addis Ababa, explains that the phrase means “one single person can’t achieve everything alone—in order to change our community and country, we have to join together.”

This notion informs Frehiwot’s philanthropic vision and inspires her to give back in her community. This year, Frehiwot created a social media campaign with her friends to collect back-to-school supplies for less fortunate local students. So far, they’ve collected 787 exercise books, 57 art books, 10 math exercise books, 2,220 pens, 1,630 pencils, 1,079 erasers, and 630 sharpeners for 140 students at Addis Tesfa kindergarten and primary school.

Frehiwot first joined the YALI Network three years ago, and says it has helped her to grow a network of inspiring, like-minded people. “If it wasn’t for YALI,” she says, “I wouldn’t know all of the amazing young leaders I’ve met with different professional backgrounds and cultures.” Through the Network, Frehiwot has moderated Face2Face groups and online “town hall” events. She has also hosted five #YALILearns events, including one focused on climate change, and has finished nearly every YALI Network online course.

“From free online courses to the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Regional Leadership Centers, and online courses, the YALI Network connects its members with many opportunities, and I would encourage everyone to join,” says Frehiwot. “As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ If we empower the young generation at its root, we will change the world for the better.”

Learning business skills

An alumnus of the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa, Anbesa Jima is head of the broadcast system administration department at his company, Oromia Broadcasting Network, in his home region of Oromia, Ethiopia.

Anbesa says he is thankful for YALI Network Online Courses like Management Strategies for People and Resources and Basics of Public-Private Partnerships, which allowed him to acquire the skills and competencies to get promoted within his organization. And his hard work continues to pay off: this year, Anbesa was chosen as the recipient of the Best Leader Award from more than 630 employees, and received a special training scholarship. “By teaching me organization and communication skills, and providing professional experiences, the YALI Network helped me to realize my potential,” he says. “My performance at work proves that with YALI, I’m capable of achieving any goal.”

Addressing climate change

YALI Network member Anbesa Jima training others in #CountryoftheWeek Ethiopia.
YALI Network member Anbesa Jima training others in #CountryoftheWeek Ethiopia.

YALI Network member Yebeltal Ashagre believes that climate change is one of the most important issues impacting his community in #CountryoftheWeek Ethiopia. “Global warming is causing many problems … worldwide,” he says. “If human activities continue to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise.”

Determined to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, Yebeltal organized a day-long tree-planting campaign in July through #YALIServes. Held in celebration of Mandela Day, the event organized locals in Addis Ababa to plant indigenous tree saplings and raised local awareness about the effects of climate change.

Is climate change an important issue for you and your community? Find out how to get involved by liking the YALI Network Facebook page and visiting the website, and complete the YALI Network Understanding Climate Change course today!