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The beautiful nightmare PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 May 2016 14:53

Born in Ethiopia in 1974, Aida Muluneh left the country at a young age and spent an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England. After several years in a boarding school in Cyprus, she finally settled in Canada in 1985. In 2000, she graduated with a degree from the Communication Department with a major in Film from Howard University in Washington, D.C. After graduation she worked as a photojournalist at the Washington Post. She is the 2007 recipient of the European Union Prize in the Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie, in Bamako, Mali. As well as the 2010 winner of the CRAF International Award of Photography in Spilimbergo, Italy. She is also the founder and director of the first international photography festival the Addis Foto Fest in Ethiopia. Aida continues to curate and develop cultural projects with local and international institutions through her company DESTA (Developing and Educating Society Through Art) For Africa Creative Consulting PLC (DFA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She talked to Capital’s Eskedar Kifle about photography in Ethiopia. Excerpts;

Capital: What does it mean to be a photographer in Ethiopia?
Aida Muluneh:
Being a photographer in Ethiopia meant working mainly as an official photographer for the government or as a studio photographer for the general public. But this is all in the past. Over the last ten years, I have seen a shift, and expansion, into the different fields of photography such as fashion, photojournalism, product and fine arts photography. However, the emergence of the various types of photography has been possible due to the resilience and curiosity of the new generation and access to new technologies. Yet, defining what it means to be a photographer in our country, requires a scrutiny of the level, or lack of, adequate specialized training and higher education programs, of the absence of professional standards, and of the need for a clear delineation of the role and development of the photography industry in Ethiopia. Currently, there are many photographers across the country, the majority of which are professionally engaged in the field through their own initiative to generate an income. However, if we look at the industry internationally, the true meaning of being a photographer, whether we are talking about the quality of the images we produce, the ethics of the sector, or even its purpose, we realize that we have still a long way to go.
This is why DFA was established. Our main objective is to generate a cadre of highly skilled photographers through directed workshops and seminars. Equally, the Addis Foto Fest allows us to create opportunities, not only by engaging our own photographers locally, but to enable them to experience the wide range of possibilities that exist beyond our borders. It is easy to be a big fish in a small pond. What we look forward to as Ethiopian photographers are showing the world that we are talented and skilled professionals, with great potential to compete with photographers anywhere in the world. Photography is a 10 billion dollar industry, and when we look at photographers in Africa, we note that we are barely engaged in the industry, because of the lack of know-how and access to education in this field.
There are many opportunities for generating income as a photographer but what we see quite often is that the market is unaware of the talent that exists in the country, that little value and consideration is given to paying a fair price for the services, and that there is a tendency to rely on foreign photographers to document content when, in fact, this could be done, unquestionably, by Ethiopian photographers. What I am looking at specifically, does not involve a one-off, short-sighted, attempt to develop the sector, rather, I am looking at the long term road to creating self sustainable opportunities.
This means that we also have a role to play engaging all stakeholders such as a diversity of audiences, businesses, photographers, and the government. Therefore, the definition of what it means to be a photographer in Ethiopia at this moment needs to change, but it will only change when all the components are aligned and our intentions go beyond the individualistic, towards the collective.
Capital: What are the challenges you have to deal with due to the profession lacking both recognition and an institution to set standards in the country?
The biggest challenge that we still face relates to the security measures that we have to comply with when undertaking street photography. The reality of being a photographer in our country is obviously different from that of someone coming from a “developed” country. I often find the short-term vision of most foreign photographers rather comical, as they cannot understand the culture and history that our nation shares with photography. The issue of security is not new, it even existed at the time of the Emperor, specifically when we speak about street photography but now, with smart phones and the accessibility of producing images on any phone, it doesn’t make sense that we still have to face these challenges, as professionals who have urgency in documenting the changing phases of our country. We are aware of security sensitive areas, which by law, cannot be photographed such as the Palace or even around the US Embassy, but this is still a challenge in many other public areas, as the security forces continuously confront us.
This was in fact brought up with our late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi some years ago, and even though he gave us a positive response in connection with the violation of our rights, we still face the same issues today. And so, this takes us back to the lack of adequate policies to address our current realities and to the absence of higher education institution specializing in photography. Undeniably, photography plays a major role in society, education, businesses, and as a tool to promote our country. But how can we develop the sector if we are still facing basic issues that prevent us from doing our job? The recognition of photography as a profession would mean that society overall would also value it as a tool that can be utilized for change. Even the branding campaigns by multinational beer companies in our country use images to sell their products, however, when we look at local businesses, there is still a big gap when it comes to understanding the value of photography. We have encountered several businesses that still think that photography is just a matter of pressing the button, with no grasp of the skills required or an appreciation of a well-produced image. Regardless of how you look at it, photographers are major assets, not only as witnesses of the changing times but also, as artists who are preserving the present for future generations.
Capital: Have you addressed these challenges with government officials?
There is an ongoing dialogue with government officials. It will take time to implement the necessary policies to address, not only our rights but also, how to develop the sector. If we look at taxation and incentives, these are often given to the tourism market, which means that if you want to build a hotel you are given tax incentives, however, my main point of conversation is that no one comes to Ethiopia only to experience a hotel, people come to experience culture in whatever form it may be. Therefore, when you look at the cultural sector (under which photography falls), we are the ones engaging international audiences as promoters of our country, even before they arrive.
When a person abroad sees a film, eats at an Ethiopian restaurant, visits an art or photography exhibition they begin to experience the country, therefore, our engagement with international audiences has to be taken into consideration and also supported. Again, it comes back to the prioritization of the cultural sector and its impact, not only on our society but also, in gaining international visibility, in other words, putting Ethiopia on the map, as a country that is gradually becoming a cultural capital.
When we look at the number of galleries or even at the variety of festivals organized by private individuals on a wide range of topics like music, fashion, film, photography and food, the country is, in fact, being rebranded, to offer tourists not only an insight into our heritage but showcasing the contemporary aspects of our society as well. Therefore, in the numerous conversations that I have had with various officials, my main points have been that we need support because, in the end, culture is soft power. Irrespectively of the way we choose to consume culture, we must be able to reproduce our own realities through our own images and voices, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for us.
Capital: You referred to the absence of photographers association in Ethiopia as one of the problems in your field. How is this matter viewed by other photographers? Do they also have the same opinion?
I believe that the lack of a national photography association is the key-missing component for advocacy in Ethiopia. This is something that has been looming for several years, with no progress. Its establishment would require persistence by emerging photographers.
It is highly bureaucratic to establish a professional association specially when, unlike fine artists in Ethiopia, we don’t have a formal university level education to validate the qualifications needed to set it up. As more photographers enter the scene, a professional association becomes a priority and the key component to addressing various issues and concerns with government. However, this will require unification for the greater good on the part of the photographers, as opposed to perpetuating individualistic agendas that have not benefitted the growth of the sector.
Capital: Tell us about current projects you are working on.
Regarding my personal artwork, I am currently represented, and also exhibiting in my gallery, David Krut Projects, both in South Africa and New York. My new collection The World is 9 is touring different art fairs and museums, the most recent one being the New York 1:54 Art Fair and, soon after, it will be displayed at the Dakar Biannual, in Senegal.  I will also be exhibiting my work in Germany, London and San Francisco.
In addition, I am also this year’s nominator for the Discovery Award at the Arles photography festival, in France. This award offers great visibility for emerging talents from across the world. I have made my selection from the works by Ethiopian photographer Nader Adem and those by Sarah Marie from Uganda. Later on in the year, I will continue my jury membership as part of the Uganda Press Photography Awards taking place in Kampala. 
I will also be curating a collection of photography in the J’burg Art Fair, in South Africa. As far as Ethiopia is concerned, this year will mark the fourth edition of the Addis Foto Fest, which is the first and only international photography festival in East Africa, taking place during the first week in December. I affectionately call this festival “the beautiful nightmare” because it is truly a work of passion and since organizing such an event involves a lot of hard work.
This year we will be showcasing 100 photographers from around 36 different countries and launching a few new projects such as an awards ceremony, which we didn’t have in the past. This year I will also be focusing more on my personal photojournalism projects, as well as conducting workshops in neighboring countries.

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We need to help them now PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 28 March 2016 06:27

The Red Cross’ fight to mobilize Ethiopians against drought
The current drought in Ethiopia has been said to be the worst in 50 years leaving over 10 million people in need of aid. It may be the worst, but many also suggest that it is being handled well, at least up to this point. The government has contributed a large sum to the USD 1.4 billion currently needed to address the crisis and support from the international community continues to trickle in. And yet, Ethiopia is not out of the shadows, in fact, things are expected to get worse before they get any better.
The Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) is part of the humanitarian response to the drought, and for this organization, getting Ethiopians to help fund relief efforts has been a struggle. Frehiwot Worku, Secretary General of ERCS, says that the response from the public has been underwhelming, ‘One of the problems that make it difficult to mobilize finances is the lack of awareness.’ Capital’s Eskedar Kifle spoke to the Secretary General about the organizations drought related activities and what it will take to mobilize resources and encourage a culture of giving.

Capital: Tell us about some of ERCS’ activities to help drought-affected communities in Ethiopia.

Frehiwot Worku:
The Ethiopian Red Cross is working to provide assistance to around 10 percent children under the age of five, breast feeding mothers as well as pregnant women who have been affected by the drought.
Our main task is providing food supplements. The government is already providing food assistance to communities in drought-affected areas. On top of that, there are communities identified as severely affected and for these communities, while the government works to reach them, we also work to reach at least 10 percent of them.

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Shining through adversity PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 March 2016 08:11

‘I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life…I saw my life passing…I knew in that moment I had to make a massive change…’ says Yene, or better known as Dr Yene Assegid, a renowned Leadership Trainer and Executive Coach. From her time of darkness and adversity comes her new book of hope and strength, ‘Shine’. Yene believes passionately that her book will inspire others to rise from adversity and build themselves up overcoming their challenges.
Despite her wealth of experience and expertise – with clientele ranging from private individuals and corporations toUN and governmental and non-governmental agencies such as UNDP, UNAIDS and GIZ, and MSF, among others – Yene remains humble ‘I have always wanted to support people in reaching their goals,’ she says. And it is in this spirit of frank openness that she spoke to Capital about her third book, ‘Shine’, and the inspiration behind it.

Capital: Tell us a about yourself, how did you come about to being a writer?
Yene Assegid:
It’s not that I intended to be a writer but rather that writing allows me to somehow reflect and meditate – it allows me to focus. When I write, I find silence from all the distractions of life.  Actually, I believe there is a writer in every single person, because story telling is part of being human. Add a comment

Serbia rekindling ties with Africa PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 09:02

Ethiopia has been one of the major partners of former Yugoslavia now Serbia for many years. The bilateral relation is traditionally good and friendly, based on common historical heritage and the Orthodox religion. Ethiopia closed its embassy in Belgrade in 1992, and its embassy in Rome is accredited for Serbia.
President Tomislav Nikolić is President of Serbia since 31 May 2012. One of the founders of the Serbian Progressive Party, Nikolić led the party until his election as president. During the 26th African Union Summit, he visited Ethiopia and met with different leaders of the continent to exchange views on economic and diplomatic relations. Capital’s Groum Abate talked to President Tomislav Nikolić about his visit and future expectations. Excerpts:
Capital: What is the main purpose of your visit?
President Tomislav Nikolić:
I can tell you that Serbia is continuing the old Yugoslav policy in Africa. We feel close to Africa and we also care about African friends and states. Serbia was absent from the African scene because the previous administration started the European integration process, and somehow, got the idea that we can to forget our old friends. Today, the situation is different. We are continuing the old policies and we want to bring back to life this old friendship that we have with Africa, and we will also pass this tradition of friendship to our successors. We can help each other a lot. If you look the international scene, you can see that African countries and Serbia are often treated the same way by the international community. They look at us with the same eyes. There are many problems we can solve together. Economic and diplomatic relations between Africa and Serbia is very important. It is also our ambition to bring the relation, to at least, to the zenith it reached  with the former Yugoslavia. But, as I said, unfortunately, we neglected Africa and the first repercussion  was some 25 African states voted in favor of Kosovo to join UNESCO. I think that we missed the opportunity to properly explain to our African friends the phenomenon of Kosovo’s separation, and if we did this in time, maybe our African friends would have not voted in favor of Kosovo or might revoked recognition. Add a comment

Satellite world the partnership to connect Ethiopia PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 February 2016 07:05

SES is one of the world-leading satellite operators with a fleet of more than 50 geostationary satellites. The company provides satellite communications services to broadcasters, content and internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators and business and government organisations worldwide. In Ethiopia, SES work with the only telecom service provider in the country, Ethio Telecom and the country’s Broadcasting Agency. Ibrahima Guimba Saidou, General Manager of SES Africa answers questions from the media about the company’s operations in Ethiopia.
Question: Tell us about the services you provide.
Ibrahima Guimba Saidou:
We are headquartered in Luxemburg and we own the largest fleets of satellite in the world with more than 50 satellites. We provide service across the whole spectrum of ICT, so ranging from video or broadcasting, we carry the most TV channels in the world we connect more than 350 million households in the world, which translates into more than 1 billion people watching television through our satellites worldwide.
We also provide broadband internet services - we connect people across the world, from remote areas to major cities, depending on the country. We also provide corporate connectivity in general, it can be connecting branches for banks, connecting government offices, schools, and hospitals and so on. We also have more sophisticated services like providing internet in airplanes and on boats; we hope that Ethiopian Airlines will one day join the service.
We also provide services in the area of defense and security, for border control or other services.
We are different in the way we value partnership, because we don’t believe we can do things by ourselves, we need to have partners to be able to provide a solution. And, it is one of our reasons we deiced to be present in Africa four years ago – based in Johannesburg. Since then, we opened two offices, one in Ghana and one office here in Addis Ababa.
The other thing we do is capacity building, because in most developing countries including all the emerging markets, there is sometimes a gap in skills. We have set up a program called Elevate, which helps us train youngsters though satellite technology in countries where we are present and have a partnership.
Question: In Ethiopia, you are providing your services to Ethio telecom and the Broadcasting Agency, what other areas are you interested in getting involved?
In Ethiopia in particular, it is Ethio telecom that provides services, what we do is give Ethio telecom the various elements or the various capabilities that we have so that they can serve customers. We always deliver services according to local rules, it is not our ambition to try and provide services to a particular sector in Ethiopia because the local law does not allow us to do so.
What we do is have regular meetings with Ethio telecom, we explain to them how the technology is evolving and the new capabilities that we have.
That dialogue and conversation is ongoing. For us the aim is to be able to provide services across the whole spectrum through Ethio telecom and the local rules and regulations. As part of GTP II, there is an ambition to connect remote areas in Ethiopia, and we are in discussions with the telecom about some of the ways they can partially achieve that.
One thing that needs to be clear is that a satellite is not a solution for everything, so within Ethio telecom’s mandate there is a small portion we believe we can help achieve. We do not pretend that we have a solution for all that Ethio telecom needs to deliver.
Question: How different is it for you to work in a country that has a single state owned telecom operator as supposed to in an open market with more than one operator?
There isn’t really any significant difference because at the end of the day, if you have one operator or ten, the aim is to providethe end user with the best service. We have seen countries where there are more than one player, what happened is that at the beginning there was this rush to have new services, and in many cases the prices went down a bit, but after a few years you can see that things stabilize.
So there isn’t really a major difference except that you talk to one company instead of more. What we do in all the markets with single or multiple players is say - this is how we believe we can help you deliver.
I haven’t seen any country that would say; no we don’t want to adopt this new technology or this solution that can help us connect to the most people in a fast and cost effective way. So for us in a nutshell, we adopt our strategy to our local environment whether it is one company we need to deal with or several, it doesn’t matter.
Question: What is your capacity with regards to security, such as incidents of satellite jamming and soon?
Jamming or interference can happen anywhere, we have invested heavily in making sure we provide top quality services to our customers across the world. So when there are challenges with jamming and interference, the experts we have in the company quickly pinpoint where the source of a jam or interference is and we use whatever vehiclesat our disposal to fix it. So it is not affecting our operations that heavily. When it comes to defense and security, there isn’t any particular issue; these are areas where we would maybe talk to a particular body of a given country.
Question: Many people use satellites here in the country as well, and sometimes people can’t find particular television stations because of interferences by a certain body. How do you deal with that?
We work around international laws and regulations, we are not involved in politics, we are technical people, and we provide connectivity. When we have a customer, that customer follows therules and regulations. When you sign up to be on our platform, you agree to behave in a certain way. When you breach that agreement, we have to tell you that you are in breach of your contract. We work with the rules and regulations that have been established not only by us but also international community.
Question: What is your future plan in Ethiopia?
One of the plans is to really see how we can support the delivery of the GTPII, to help Ethio telecom connect the masses - help the operator provide connectivity to the most remote areas in Ethiopia in a cost effective manner and as soon as possible. We also know that Ethiopia has its own ambition to have its own satellite and we have expertise we can offer on that. These are some of the things we are hoping to be able to deliver this year and the years to come.
Question: So should we expect Ethio telecom to start providing quality services anytime soon?
I didn’t know that Ethio telecom was not providing quality services so I cannot comment on that. What I can tell you from our perspectives is that we are going to do whatever we can and that is the bit we can provide to make sure that it is top quality.
Again, I would like to insist that the services we provide here are similar to what we provide anywhere else in the world. Of course it is a process, we will adopt and we will make sure that what we provide is not second class service.

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Ambitious SDGs PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 20 July 2015 08:53

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UN Population Fund participated in the 3rd Financing for Development Conference held in Addis Ababa from July 13 to 16, 2015. He spoke to Capital on issues such as the role of the youth in the development agenda as well as how to make the SDGs successful.

Capital: What has been UNFPA’s interest in the Financing for Development conference?
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin:
UNFPA has participated in many side events. We have participated in areas of financing for health, education; we have looked at issues that have to do with the rights to make choices especially for women and girls. We are also doing a big side event on human resources for health. Add a comment

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1. Do you think the drought will affect next year harvest?

(211 votes)

26.1%   (55)
55%   (116)
19%   (40)


2. Do you think water problem in Addis Ababa will be solved by next year?

(242 votes)

37.2%   (90)
36%   (87)
26.9%   (65)

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