2012: Who was the most influential official?
Despite political upheavals coupled with natural hazards and the COVID-19 pandemic, certain government agencies have delivered commendable performances during the 2012 Ethiopian Year. While some have struggled to meet a certain set of targets, others have achieved projected milestones. The top leadership at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Airlines Group, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Peace, for instance, are some of the go-getters nominated for the accolade.
The selection of the nominees may be debatable. Please vote which of them you believe deserves to earn this honor.
Lia Tadesse (MD)
Perhaps the person confronted with the greatest challenge the COVID-19 pandemic poses for Ethiopia, Lia Tadesse (MD), Minister of Health, is one of the proven capable leaders the country has got. Since the first case was reported on early March 13, 2020, her Ministry was spearheading the response relatively well until political turbulence got in the way. Lia’s brief and yet informative daily reports regarding the disease paint a grim picture. The number of confirmed cases on a daily basis has climbed to well over 1,000. The death toll is also rising with significant number of COVID-19 critical patients being placed under intensive care units (ICUs). The political turmoil engulfing the country has contributed considerably to the fast growth in infection rates. In spite of the extraordinary burden the pandemic has placed on the health system, Lia was able to ensure that other essential medical care was provided in a timely manner. For instance, she oversaw the vaccination of some 16 million children for measles in less than a month.
Tewolde Gebremariam is the group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ethiopian Airlines. He is one of the leaders feeling the socioeconomic pains inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic on Ethiopia. The airliner lost more than half-a-billion dollars during the first three months after the outbreak of the pandemic in January 2020. When the rest of the world suspended flights to China, the origin and epicenter of the COVID-19, in March 2020, Ethiopian Airlines kept flying this route. Tewolde was highly criticized for that until his decision was gradually proven to be right. As the entire aviation industry crumbled owing to the unprecedented crisis, Tewolde and his team quickly capitalized on the national carrier’s cargo business, saving the group from a possible collapse. Thousands of employees have retained their jobs. Though revenues have plummeted, they have been propped up by income generated from cargo operations. This rapid shift not only has contributed to the stability of Ethiopian Airlines, but has also inspired other outfits to follow in it footsteps and survive what Tewolde calls the Tsunami.
Ever since her appointment as the CEO of Ethio Telecom, the cash-cow state-owned monopoly, Frehiwot Tamru has transformed the company into a high-performing entity. In the concluded fiscal year alone, Ethio Telecom amassed 47.7 billion birr income, surpassing the target set for that budget year. What makes the performances unique is that it was able to rake in huge revenues despite slashing tariffs by 70 percent. Ethio Telecom is revolutionizing the telecom service in the country and is currently eyeing infrastructural expansions instrumental to introducing 5G mobile network services. So far Addis Ababa and major regional cities are fully covered with 4G LTE network. Frehiwot’s immediate target is to expand the 4G network across the nation. Once at risk of defaulting on its repayment of foreign loans, in 2012 Ethio Telecom repaid USD 318.4 million to its creditors. It generated USD 148 million from international services during the same period. In 2013 Frehiwot and her team have set a target of 55 billion birr in revenues.
Seleshi Bekele (PhD)
Seleshi Bekele (PhD), Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, is tasked with one of the most contentious projects Ethiopia has been developing for the past nine years on the Blue Nile River. A well-versed engineer by training, Seleshi is in charge of deals and negotiations over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that will generate some 6,000 megawatts of electricity. Seleshi remains on top of the ongoing trilateral negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan Egypt to sign a deal that protects the national interests of the country over the Blue Nile River.
A milestone progress has been witnessed in the first impoundment phase of GERD project with the initially planned 4.9 billion cubic meters of water filled during the current Ethiopian year. The following year 13.5 billion cubic meters of water is slated to be stored to begin the early generation of 750 megawatts of electricity. This is significantly smaller in comparison to the 74.5 billion cubic meters reservoir capacity of the dam. Ethiopia accounts for 86 percent of the annual flow of the Nile with the Blue Nile contributing around 49 billion cubic meters and Tekeze, Baro and other rivers another 27 billion cubic meters. Ethiopia plans to finalize the overall construction of the GERD within the coming three years. Part of that plan has been achieved this year despite the nine-year delay that has caused the project cost to double. The project’s final tab is set to soar to 160 billion birr from the original 78 billion birr. Presently the project is 75 percent complete.
The first and only Minister of Peace, which came into existence just a little over two years ago, Muferiat Kamil has demonstrated how quick she can act to avert potential chaos and crisis. When things get out of hands, as a seasoned politician, she knows how to mobilize resources that are needed the most. Her role in resettling the more than three million civilians affected by intercommunal conflicts since her tenure began has been one of her big achievements. Currently, almost all these unfortunate citizens have been resettled in their homes and villages. Muferiat also leads the powerful security and intelligence agencies. Over the past two years Ethiopia’s fragile political landscape has been rocked by recurring violence that have led to the death of hundreds of citizens, the injury of thousands more and the destruction of both private and public properties. Though conflicts can break out at any moment, Muferiat is laser-focused on assuring political stability.