I read in a book once that all we can control is how we react to situations. Each day I spend in Ethiopia has become an example of this. Life’s unpredictability, born out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially in Addis Abeba, has made it all frustrating.
And in the past few months, it has felt impossible to stay quiet as I was seeing Ethiopia for what it was and not what I had wished and thought of it to be. Life is hard, and we try to correct that in our own ways. But when inconveniences gang-up on us, and we have no choice but to resign to them, it becomes all the more exasperating.
Institutional inefficiency, in either the public or private sector, are a significant component of this. It starts with Ethio telecom, one of the state-enterprises in Ethiopia that infuriates many who brave one of its service centre’s doors.
The telecom provider has, over the years, changed its ways, yet still promises more than it provides. It is a firm that owes its financial success to the fact that there is no competition in Ethiopia. Had there been another telecom provider, there would be better service.
But connectivity being an important part of the globalised, information-addicted, world, it is hard to shut oneself from its services. For that reason, we tolerate mediocre service, while Ethio telecom celebrates itself for its “encouraging” performance.
The same goes for the provision of electricity in the country. There is an undeniable lack of power generation, but had Ethiopian Electric Utility been forced to reimburse businesses for the cost of generators or fuel every time there is a blackout, power cuts as a result of lacklustre distribution would have been reduced.
Such entities continue to be state-owned or heavily regulated for the government needs to generate revenues, and reinvest them back into the country. This may be reasonable, although the allocation of resources, once they have been harvested, has much to be said about it, but we can no longer afford to give excuses while paying homage and hard earned cash at terrible service rendered.
In many of our streets we see pedestrian walkways ploughed to make way for another infrastructure, and then haphazardly put together. But our economic shortcoming should not be an excuse to do things poorly; it should be the reason we plan ahead.
It should be the reason we become thrifty in how we use our public funds and have the impetus to do better. The alternative will mean an endless cycle of inefficiency and undersupply born out of those same shortcomings.
Every individual needs to take a sense of responsibility for the work that is done. Even though development can simultaneously come on many fronts, we cannot continue to exist as a nation constantly chasing its tail.
As we look at the reality of persisting in Ethiopia, we can see more than what we wish. We can see the cracks in our ideologies as well as the existing work being done.
Many of us have nowhere else we would rather be than our country – working, creating and building. But too many things are difficult, even the things that do not need to be.
Last week a friend and I waited an hour at a local hotel for them to change the channel on the TV. It was not that they were unwilling, but some did not know how, while others did not know where the TV remote was. Even though this might seem like a random incidence, in Ethiopia everything seems a little out of place. Even when we are prepared for every scenario, something utterly out of our control will happen at no fault of ours.
I had a co-worker that would often say, “either be impeccable at your job or have a humble and sweet disposition.”
This is good advice for most of our institutions, private or state-run. Efficiency would be great. If not, the least they could train their staff to be is honest and willing to heed constructive comments.
I have caught myself saying “What’s the point?” one too many times as I face issues beyond my control.
But there is a point. We are frustrated only because we know these entities could be better. I know the day I stop being frustrated is the day we have completely given up on our country. We cannot continue to excuse negligence for our economic disadvantage, or vice-versa. The former has to give before the latter can ever be fixed.
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