The Young Help Lead the Nation(Photos: Marcin Szczepanski)What if your doctor was almost still a kid?“When they see me, they do not think I am a doctor,” says Dr. Tewelde Cridey, standing in the shade of a small tree in Aksum. “They think the doctor is fat,” he adds, making the motion of a big belly with his hands. “And wears—” (he makes the motion for eyeglasses). “But they are starting accept it. When we wear our lab coats, it helps.”Looking at him, who would think he’s a doctor, in all honesty? The 25-year-old Ethiopian looks more like a college undergraduate than a general practitioner who teaches at the College of Health Science at Aksum University. But in a country that has expanded its university system this fast—and where a large percentage of the population is under age 20—it shouldn’t be surprising that a new generation of young, middle class Ehtiopians is stepping in to lead the country.Tewelde is showing us around town. Aksum (also Axum) in many ways symbolizes Ethiopia, because it’s a place that is ancient and new. For example, it is home to the palace of the Queen of Sheba and, according to Ethiopian history, the Ark of the Covenant. We visited a market on the edge of town where herdsmen sold cattle in a manner that has changed little over hundreds of years.And yet just a few hundreds yards away, Tewelde showed us Aksum’s main campus. Nine years ago, this was African pasture and farmland. Now it is home to a public university, including an engineering department,. The air is filled with the ping of hammers as workers toil in the hot sun to add two huge new buildings to the already sprawling campus. Close by is the College of Health Science, a campus whose structures are not even a year old, and that has no real road to reach it yet. When we tried to find it a couple of hours after landing at the airport, the people in town didn’t even know what we were talking about. This may have been in part because the English language is a distant third after Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, and Tigrayan, the native language in this region. But it is also because this place is so new that it is not yet familiar to the people who have lived here all their lives.Dr. Abraham Ybrah is acting dean of the college. We talked with him earlier this morning at the college. “Nowadays, this country is transforming,” he tells us in a classroom of the brand new academic building. “I’m very glad to be part of this transformative generation.”Not only is young Abraham in charge of a health sciences school, he is also helping to launch a brand new referral hospital. The facility is scheduled to go online in just a few weeks, a task that requires the hiring of hundreds of specialists, nurses and other staff, in addition to the procurement of everything from beds to high-tech equipment. The hospital is badly needed in an area that serves millions of Ethiopians.Daunting? If he thinks so privately, he doesn’t show it.“We’re building the country, and the country depends on a healthy community,” he says.One reason he is so calm is because he sees himself as part of a team that includes the support of everyone from Aksum (the college’s umbrella university) up to the Minister of Education at the top of the government ladder. Even the University of Michigan is helping. Two members of the School of Nursing visited after the symposium, just before we arrived. And others have taught there for short periods of time.But his team also includes a group of other young doctors. We ate lunch with six of them in their residence hall this afternoon. In one way, it felt like eating in a dorm room with grad students. In another, it felt like being in the presence of people who feel equal to the task. They may be thrust into great responsibility—they tell us stories of delivering babies by Ceasarean section and performing surgery to repair a punctured bowel—but they are also stepping into great opportunity. Not only for themselves, but for Ethiopia.“I think the country is working for tomorrow, not for today,” Abraham says. “People are a resource. And if we educate them, they are more of a resource.”#MGoEthiopia-Brad Whitehouse(By the way, this is the last blog post we will write from Ethiopia. What a shame—and what a country! Thanks for reading.)Read More >
Two friends pass by a clothing store in an old Italian neighborhood called Piazza. Addis Ababa has a vibrant night scene with thousands of people enjoying late night shopping, cafes and hopping bars. Photo by Marcin SzczepanskiRead More >
A time-lapse of a sunrise over a leafy, spacious and comfortable Bole neighborhood in Addis Ababa. New construction sites are visible on the horizon. Video by Marcin SzczepanskiRead More >
From Country to City to Country(Photo: Marcin Szczepanski)We’re standing with Gemechis Mikael at St. Paul’s Hospital in Addis Ababa. The young medical student just visited one of his patients, an 8-year-old whose leg is in traction after a car accident. Now Gemechis is standing in the busy corridor, telling us why he decided to become a doctor. “Most of the patients come from the countryside,” he said. “Helping them is what I like.”Gemechis was certainly aware of the health care needs in the countryside before he was accepted to medical school. As he explained, he is from Assasa in Benishangul-Gumuz, one of four states or regions of Ethiopia that the government identifies as the least developed. He said St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College recruits students from those areas so they can return to serve. “They know the language and the culture,” he said. “St. Paul’s is planning to serve those regions.”Not all medical students are from rural areas or are rising into a new economic class. We talked with other doctors who grew up in Addis and whose parents are accountants or businessmen. But even some of these doctors end up serving in rural areas.Medical school is free in Ethiopia. Students graduate after six years and become general practitioners. At that point, they are required to take an assignment from the government as a way of repaying their education. If they choose a populous area such as Addis Ababa, their length of service is four years. But if they go to a rural area, it is only 2-3 years.A growing number of students from poverty-stricken areas now have the chance to become doctors. And as Ethiopia tries to raise the standard of living for those left behind, the government is incentivizing young doctors to work at the hospitals that serve them.The EMPACE conference in Addis Ababa ended a couple of days ago and the U-M attendees are going their separate ways. As we wrap up our coverage here, we are going to the countryside. We will visit a university and a health services school that are both under construction. And we’ll meet some of the young doctors trying to make things happen there.#MGoEthiopia-Brad WhitehouseRead More >
8-year-old Fayesa Tesfaye who was hit by a car, is treated by Gemechis Mikael, a medical student at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa. The boy’s leg is in traction by the use of a black plastic bag filled with something heavy hanging off the end of the bed. Gemechis adjusted the apparatus by placing a roll of toilet tissue beneath the strap between the leg and the weight. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. St. Paul Hospital is a major partner of the University of Michigan’s Medical School and the College of Engineering. Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan, College of EngineeringRead More >
Addis Ababa, like many other African capitals, is a city of contrasts. In recent years these contrasts became even more pronounced as more and more fancy skyscrapers rise up in the city center and in the area called Bole. Thursday, January 29th, 2015. Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan, College of EngineeringRead More >
Getting the Ethiopian ViewpointIbrahim Mohedas holds up a prototype for a medical device so that a group of Ethiopian doctors can see it. This is the second time he’s come to Ethiopia for their advice, so he knows it could help make the device better.“Everyone is open with us,” the U-M mechanical engineering PhD student said. “There is not much red tape, and they are interested. The doctors give us their time, so the device has developed quickly.”The device aids insertion of a long-term contraceptive. It is too easy for health care workers to incorrectly insert the contraceptive into the muscle of a woman’s arm instead of where it is supposed to go just under the skin in the subcutaneous tissue. The device, which is being designed for patients in rural areas, will make it easier for the care providers to insert it correctly.The team that developed the device includes another PhD student and a group of undergraduate mechanical engineers, who developed the first prototype. Mohedas, whose co-advisor for the research is U-M biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering professor Kathleen Sienko, was in Ethiopia a few months ago to gather feedback on the first prototype.Photo by Marcin SzczepanskiRead More >
students at the Addis Ababa institute of Technology carry additional chairs to
sit on them during a class. “In a country of more than 90 million people, the
median age is 17 years old,” biomedical engineering professor Metasebya Solomon
said. These youth need universities and technical schools where they can
attend. The country had only a handful public universities 15 years ago. Now
there are 34. The country depends on the newly educated engineers, doctors and
public servants to help move the country forward. But Ethiopian universities
are overcrowded and many of the classes are taught by graduates fresh out of
college themselves who often lack teaching and research experience. Ethiopian
academics and government hope that University of Michigan can help educate more
quality teachers. January 28th, 2015.Photo
by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan,
College of EngineeringRead More >
The Biomedical Engineer in the Basement(Photos by Marcin Szczepanski)“We have quantity now, and the quality will come later.” In those brief words, Metasebya Solomon summed up the Ethiopian educational system with dignity and wisdom. The Ethiopian government is expanding its universities and medical schools rapidly, so rapidly that growing pains are inevitable.Metasebya, who is a biomedical engineer with a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, is showing us a room in the lower level of St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa. She managed to carve out this space in the bustling hospital as a biomedical engineering lab. It’s a big step forward, even if it is still at an early stage.“The problem with these is a shortage of spare parts,” says Metasebya, pointing to a dusty hodgepodge of medical equipment stacked in one corner of the room where we’re standing. “Or they’re too old. Or they’re in a different language—this one is a French ventilator—and we don’t have the manuals.”Metasebya has a lot of work to do here. Her project as a Whitaker International Fellow includes taking an inventory of everything that is broken at St. Paul’s, figuring out which equipment is necessary, and having it repaired. As it is now, no one is organizing all the devices and machines that patients require.The need for biomedical engineers is high everywhere in the country, which could make it a major source of employment. I spoke with a group of biomedical engineering students at Addis Ababa Institute of Technology earlier today. They explained that they chose the school’s fledgling program because it could mean great opportunity. Right now it is a risky career choice because the field is little understood here and has yet to become a priority. But the country is changing in many ways.Just how fast is higher education growing? The number of public universities in the country has grown from two to 34 over the last 12 years. Around 320,000 undergraduate students currently attend public universities, and the number is targeted to reach 467,000 this year, according to the Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education. Part of the solution for raising quality is partnering with schools like the University of Michigan. The government has reached out to high-ranking foreign universities to get help expanding existing engineering and medical programs and building new ones. U-M and others are reciprocating. Today, more than 20 units across the Michigan have collaborative projects under way with colleagues in Ethiopia. Sixty-five U-M faculty and staff and an additional 50 students have traveled to Ethiopia on educational, research and clinical activities over the past year and a half. The College of Engineering is, along with the Medical School, at the foreground of these activities. Metasebya has her own connections to U-M—she has been working with Michigan Engineering faculty and students and hopes to do more. She attended this week’s EMPACE Symposium and plans to do more with U-M are in the works. She sees cooperation like this as an important way to help her country succeed.“Hopefully, we will eventually have more quality students to help sustain our economic growth,” she said. She knows it will take time. “But we’re starting somewhere. That’s what I like about it—we’re not waiting ten years until everything is ready. We’re starting en masse.”“In a country of more than 90 million people, the median age is 17 years old,” Metasebya said. These youth need universities and technical schools where they can attend. “Because what is their future if they are not educated?”#MGoEthiopia-Brad Whitehouse, with Marcin SzczepanskiRead More >
Large parts of Addis Ababa have turned into construction sites with dozens of multistory buildings raising above ground. The boom provides plenty of jobs for civil engineers. Here’s a little snippet of how it’s like to drive around Addis today.
Video by Marcin SzczepanskiRead More >
Bringing the Best Minds Home
(Photos by Marcin Szczepanski)
We met an electrical engineer today who could have decided to leave Ethiopia forever. But a persistent thought haunted him until he changed his mind: “I know what the problems are in Ethiopia, and I think I can find solutions for them.”
A common challenge in Ethiopia is for the brightest engineers to go abroad for their graduate studies and never come back, mostly because they can earn so much more money in the U.S. or Europe. Getachew Teshome could have been like that when he earned a graduate degree in the Netherlands.
“It was very comfortable there,” he said. But because he grew up in rural Ethiopia, he couldn’t stop thinking of ideas that could make life better for the people there.
Getachew, an Addis Ababa institute of Technology grad, drives us to one of the workspaces for the business he started with a mechanical engineering friend. The route starts as a side street near Addis Ababa, then turns into a cobblestone road and then narrows to a path. Saws buzz as mechanics in red jumpsuits work in a building nearby.
Inside a pole barn made of metal sheets and long eucalyptus poles, Getachew’s employees make spinning wheels. As his business partner, Aysheshim Tilahun, points to bobbins, spindles, and yarn, it doesn’t exactly give an impression of the cutting edge. But he explains that people in Ethiopia are still spinning yarn by hand, which is less safe, less efficient and results in inconsistent quality. An inexpensive, foot-powered spinning wheel address a real issue in the country.
Probably the coolest thing that Innopia Electromechanical has created is a mobile clinic that runs on solar power. The panels on the roof of the mini-bus capture the bright Ethiopian sun to run medical equipment and a refrigerator near an examination table in the back. Millions of Ethiopians in the far reaches of the country have to travel incredible distances for health care, but the clinic could bring that care much closer.
When an idea like the solar clinic starts to take shape, Getachew says he can’t sleep and can’t stop working on it. He loves it when a concept is good for society and good for business. He knows many engineers decide to move away. But he thinks that as manufacturing continues to develop in Ethiopia, many more people will begin to realize problems can be opportunities.
-Brad WhitehouseRead More >
From the Slum, a Civil Engineer
(Photos by Marcin Szczepanski)
“There are two good things in Ethiopia for the better life: one is medicine, and the other is engineering. That’s why I choose engineering.”
So says Natnael Gezahegn, one of the most amazing people I have met in Ethiopia so far.
The way we met him was serendipitous. Marcin and I were driving all over the city to film and take notes on the signs of the middle class that are becoming so common. For contrast, we asked the driver to take us through one of the many ramshackle communities where the poor live. These houses are usually made of scrap lumber and corrugated metal organized into crooked paths of bare dirt.
At the far side of the makeshift homes we found a football (soccer) game in full swing and Marcin began filming. A little above us was the prime minister’s palace overlooking Addis. Below us, glimmering in the distance, were towering high rises—many of them reaching up out of new building sites. And in between were kids of all ages playing their hearts out on a construction site with big, square stones to mark the goals.
And among the athletes was Natnael, who against all odds is a civil engineering undergrad at Addis Ababa institute of Technology.
It took me about 10 tries to find someone who could speak enough English or would talk to me long enough to ask if anyone here was a university student. In Addis Ababa, my gut said there might be. And finally someone pointed to Natnael, the player in the shirt with the number six.
“I was interested in math and physics in high school,” he explained, sweating after the game and looking at me a little suspiciously where we stood next to a big concrete drainage pipe. What that means is that when he took the exam that everyone takes at the end of high school, his scores were high enough for him to attend whatever Ethiopian engineering school he wanted. And in Ethiopia, it is free.
His studies are going well. He recently completed what is the equivalent of an internship working on a palace administration building for a construction company called Zamra PLC. He said he doesn’t find his studies hard. But to him, there is one big challenge: The teachers are under-qualified.
Often, the only option even for AAiT is to use lecturers who have just completed their undergrad degrees. It is a symptom of a country that has needed to expand its educational system too fast.
“The teachers are bad, but I work hard and read so much and I’m ready, and I make it,” he said soberly.
And what keeps him going? “My family. They are my everything.”
He would like to one day build the buildings that the city is in a rush to build, earning a living that will allow him to help support his mother and father. And in the meantime, he’s making sure his 11-year-old brother works hard at school—not to be an engineer, but to be a doctor.
So not everything I had planned for today worked out how I expected. But that’s OK, because Natnael embodies the story we are here to tell. A stronger economy has created a tremendous need for engineers, which is creating a chance for Ethiopians like Natnael to join the middle class.
As for the problem of under-qulaified teachers, we’re looking into it while we are here. I understand that Ethiopian faculty are hoping to partner with U-M to help improve the situation.
#UMEthiopia #UMEthiopia #UmichEngin #UmichEnginAbroad #MGoAbroad #UM #UmichSocial #UMSocial #UniversityofMichigan #Ethiopia #EngineeringRead More >
Tradition and modernity meet on the square
The historically symbolic Menelik II Square is located at the heart of Addis Ababa. The statue of Emperor Menelik II is now surrounded by construction cranes and a new light rail system is being built right under the square. The monument was erected by Emperor Haile Selassie and was dedicated a day before his coronation in 1930.
Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/ Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan, College of Engineering.
#MGoEthiopiaRead More >
Pathway to Education
If there is a moment when Ann Arbor seemed a world away, it was our visit yesterday to Keta Medenlem Cherche. Could there be engineering students here, in this place outside of time?
Of course we knew there were, since we were the guests of Netsanet Hailu, an Ethiopian graduate student in biomedical engineering at Addis Ababa Institute of Technology. She and her mother led us down narrow dirt pathways to their Orthodox church atop a mountain in or near Asko. Located on the edge of the city, the place is even more likely to have goats or cows in the road than in the heart of the city. (Although it happens there, too.)
The ceremony regaled all of my senses at once—the spicy pungency of incense and bread, the worshippers wrapped in sumptuous white shrouds kneeling to the ground in the red dust, the chant-like prayers falling over everything. There was a feeling that we had entered somewhere private and sacred.
She also invited us into her home, where we were treated to an Ethiopian meal and met her father, mother, sister, and nephews. It was a very intimate look at Ethiopian life. And while it did seem like another world, it was in her home that it also seemed the same. Netsanet’s parents, who run a cafe and restaurant, have a lovely stucco home and what is probably a middle class lifestyle.
And they have raised their four children to pursue education. They told us that what they want for their children is for them to be happy, and to make a difference for society and their country. And when they said how proud they are of Netsanet, she glowed like sons and daughters everywhere.
Tomorrow we plan to interview more Ethiopians, including some of the businessmen who sit each day in the lobby of our business hotel (right under our noses!). And we hope to catch up with a social entrepreneur who is helping young people start businesses at an incubator—a very new concept for the new economy.
-Photos by Marcin Szczepanski
Photo captions: Engineering student Netsanet Hailu and her mother attend Sunday service at Keta Medenlem Cherche (Orthodox Christian Church) in Addis Ababa and then are served coffee by a servant back in their home.Read More >
(Photo by Marcin Szczepanski)
Ethiopia plans to more than double its capacity for mobile phone users, a project that is desperately in need of engineers.
This is according to Yalemzewd Negash Shiferaw, dean of the School of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Addis Ababa Institute of Technology. He was really interesting to interview.
He said Ethiopia has about 20 million residents with cell phones, but the government is building a system that will accommodate upward of 50 million—which is more than half of the country’s population (about 90 million). The mobile project is in addition to many other engineering projects, including one to provide housing for more than one million families in Addis Ababa.
“We’ve been developing in such a rapid manner, with growth in two-digit figures,” he said. “As a result, the number of engineers will also increase exponentially.”
Yalemzewd said AAiT has been studying the structure of Michigan’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department to help prepare its students for the needs of the country. His department is working with U-M’s Valeria Bertacco and Todd Austin, who are here with us on the trip.
AAiT is one of the leading engineering schools in Ethiopia, and we chatted with several very bright students by the snack bar to ask why they want to be engineers and what they think about Ethiopia.
Photo caption: Engineering students at the Addis Ababa institute of Technology take a final exam on Saturday, January 24th. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.Read More >
A Government Investing in Education
(Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer/University of Michigan, College of Engineering)
When Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, addressed the EMPACE Symposium at the opening reception last night, he confessed part of what won him over about the University of Michigan.
“I love the school colors!” he exclaimed, drawing laughter from the crowd. He said that to him, blue represents peace, which is a great thing when combined with maize, especially since it could also be described as gold.
According to Senait Fisseha, a physician and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U-M Health System, Tedros is the one who championed the partnership between Michigan and Ethiopia. His support demonstrates how the government is looking to expand higher education to help the Ethiopian economy to continue to grow.
Tedros explained how he visited Ann Arbor in 2011 (at which time he was Minister of Health) to meet with Senait and her colleagues about a partnership they were starting with St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College. He said he was impressed with how the group developed concrete goals and carried them out in a very short amount of time. The partnership has helped it become a leading Ethiopian medical school in just a few short years.
Tedros added that he is very pleased that so many other collaborations with U-M are developing.
“Now when I see the whole community of Michigan here, there is nothing that can truly move me and touch me (more),” he said. The crowded hotel ballroom included people from many areas of U-M, including the College of Engineering.
The EMPACE event has drawn medical professionals, professors and university leaders from across Ethiopia. They are spending a lot of time meeting with the Michigan group to explore new ways of working together.
Photo: James Holloway, Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education at the University of Michigan discusses further development of EMPACE with the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Gehbreyesus (right) while Senait Fisseha, Associate Professor and Chief of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility listens to the conversation holding a baby of fellow UM professors Valeria Bertacco and Todd Austin. Amy Conger, Assistant Vice Provost is on the left in the back. Sunday, January 25, 2015. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
#UMEthiopia #UMEthiopia #UmichEngin #UmichEnginAbroad #MGoAbroad #UM #UmichSocial #UMSocial #UniversityofMichigan #Ethiopia #EngineeringRead More >
(Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan)
What is the middle class? There’s no clear definition in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
On the other hand, the U.S. does define poverty. A household of four living on around $24,000 or less per year is defined by the U.S. government as poor. As this U.S. News article points out, being middle class must be somewhat relative, with people who make as much as $400,000 a year defining themselves that way.
And then there’s Ethiopia. This Web page cites a recent study by the African Development Bank that defines the middle class as those who spend $2 to $20 per day. (I’ll do the math for you: That’s $730 to $7,300 per year.)
Yes, that’s comparing income to spending, but all the same, it does raise the question about what life looks like on two bucks a day.
As we explore how Ethiopians are entering the middle class, I wonder if we’ll be surprised about how that’s being defined. Of course it’s more expensive to live in the U.S. But even if differences in the cost of living are accounted for, perceptions of where the middle lies could vary greatly.
Photo: Ethiopian businessmen get their shoes cleaned by a street shoe cleaner near the business-friendly Desalegn Hotel in Addis Ababa.)
-Brad WhitehouseRead More >
Awesome first day in Addis Ababa!!! smile emoticon We really hit the ground running. First some early morning street scenes, then the day interviewing and filming faculty and students at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology and now we are about to head out to capture some gorgeous late afternoon light in the city. We will potentially wrap it up at night, getting footage of Addis Ababa jazz scene. #UMEthiopia
Engineering students at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology enjoy a break in their during Saturday classes. AAIT is an Ethiopian partner of the University of Michigan. January 24, 2015. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan, College of Engineering
#MgoEthiopia #UmichEngin #UmichEnginAbroad #MGoAbroad #UM #UmichSocial #UMSocial
#UniversityofMichigan #Ethiopia #EngineeringRead More >