Ethiopia: The Need for Top-Notch Research Hubs and Special Academic Institutes

(Shishay Amare Gebremeskel)

Though people, since ancient times, has been creating ways of solving their life challenges through traditional means, today it is tending towards impossibility to live with the competitive world having conventional trends. It has been long time since the world started to approach challenges through academics and scientific research. As we could not hide ourselves from the hardships, Ethiopia as part of the world society should also adopt the modern methodologies to sustain and enhance the already accelerating economy. On this regard, having well mandated top research hubs and special academic institutes are inevitably required as they are the most prominent to produce cutting-edge technological and timely solutions for basic problems of the nation. To realize such institutions commitment from the Government side, intellectual citizens, financing bodies and other stake holders is highly demanded. The Government and the society should also pay proper respect to the shining intellectuals so that they can take over the nation’s responsibilities and drive such vital institutes in a way to lift the economy.

1. Introduction

This article depicts personal idea and prospect of the author towards the started ride to prosperity of Ethiopia demonstrating the economic and social significance of having dedicated and authorized top research hubs & special academic institutes at national level. The entire idea enclosed is only a suggestive notion and no crosscheck is done whether the same idea is already under consideration from the Ethiopian Government side or not. It only indicates the future interest of the author that wanted to see realized in Ethiopia as the same believes that ‘Top National Research Hubs and Special Academic Institutes’ are an engine for overall development of the Nation. Author has an in-depth vision to contribute own efforts to the fullest on the leadership and/or technical aspects of realizing such hubs and institutes, jointly with the Government of Ethiopia and other concerned stakeholders who support the idea. Majority of supportive and illustrative ideas in this article show experiences and developments in Engineering research hubs and institutes as the author belongs to that field of study. But similar concept is extended to the rest of the areas of studies.Shishay Amare Gebremeskel

It may not be that embellished saying to note, “To start life is to start facing challenges”. If one is convinced that life is all about challenges there will be a need to have a tool either to defend or tackle it so as to live safely. Since ancient times, people have been developing their own methods and materials to simplify the hardships of their lives through either traditional way or scientific approach. In today’s modern world the scientific approach of solving problems became a predominant way as the traditional one is getting less acceptance from the efficiency, effectiveness and safety points of view. Thus, scientific research has been extensively contributing to the life style of human being. This is the main clue to Nations so that they give a major emphasis towards excelling academics and research through which they secure multidimensional and sustainable development. Research Universities and institutes are expected to work on the Nation’s problems, but National Research Hub is primarily required to lead them in an institutionalized and organized way. To achieve the ultimate objectives of research institutes and hubs, academic institutes are the input sources that should be systematized and fully equipped to produce manpower with high theoretical knowledge. It is the best theoretician that can be the best researcher. Output of the researches should then bring practical changes to the society and the Nation which can be observed in terms of either service or product by which it gets evaluated.

One can understand that the back bone of US economy is the technology as a result of giant, dedicated and authorized research institutes. As per the US National Academy of Science and National Academy of Engineering [1], engineering and physical science researches have an extraordinary importance for the Nation’s economy to tackle the Global challenges of competitiveness. It is noted, “Engineering research; the engine of innovation”. Industries and the Federal Government of US are mainly responsible to finance researches in engineering so that new, cheaper, attractive and competitive products will be developed [2] & [3]. This shows that high emphasis needs to be given to research hubs so that new streams of knowledge continuously arise out of it. As per the report by Sargent [4], science and engineering workforce has been an incessant concern of US Congress for more than 60 years which is a clear indication that research is a backbone for development and global competitiveness.

To achieve competitive and sustainable development through research and academics brain drain of one’s nation must be kept as low as possible. As per UNESCO’s study on European research and academic man power, it points out that institution is required to minimize the brain drain of outstanding science and engineering researchers and to provide collaborative networks with research institutes of other countries as brain drain is difficult to completely avoid [5]. To have an institution for the research hub itself as well as an institution to take care of it, in terms of following the research outputs and the yearly demand and expectations of the nation from it, is important. On this regard the fast growing Asian countries ignited their development which is highly supported by research and academics as they are succeeded to hold and stabilize their intellectual man power through different national responsibilities and basic living motivations. Research hubs and academic institutes in Asian countries like China National Engineering Research Centers, Japanese Engineering Research and Development Centers, Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute Management (IIMs) and Indian Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) are main lessons showing that such leading research and academic hubs are essential for economic and social developments of a nation [6-8]. It is their advancements in researches of all areas, towards solving their public physical problems and global challenges, which is driving them through a pipeline of faster and sustainable development carrying public responsibilities.

2. Upcoming Benefits for the Nation

2.1 Accelerated and Sustainable Development

It is recognized that the double digit economic growth of Ethiopia placed the country amongst the top performing economies in Sub-Sahara Africa. Majority of the growth has been achieved as the Government adopted a robust growth and poverty reduction strategy through infrastructure development, agricultural commerce and accessibility of services [9]. Even though these major pillars for the development are practically stimulating the economy, the dynamic nature of the growth rate will be the main challenge to make it sustainable.

Most reports on economic studies about Ethiopia, especially by the so called opposition based economic analysts, are focused on critics, fault finding and concluding with blind future, while ground realities of development are observed with in the society. According to me, we have a bright future unlike to the dark hypothesis of Ethiopia’s enemies. But, we need one thing to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. The one thing is simple and clear that we have to harmonize the overall development strategy with research and academics. One has to know that no one will encourage Ethiopia to excel in scientific researches and academics except Ethiopians ourselves. No one will transfer us ones’ technology unless we copy it or innovate it by ourselves. No one will bring Ethiopian development through scientific research as a table agenda except Ethiopians.

I feel that the level of brain drain is Severe in Ethiopia because of so many reasons of dissatisfactions of intellectuals. There are so many Ethiopian academicians and world class researchers serving other countries whom could have brought a dramatic change in Ethiopia’s economy, had they been worked for the mother land. So, the key solution comes when the country has a clear strategy to stabilize intellectual citizens and build top and leading research hubs and special academic institutes at any cost. It will only be such a strategy that could accelerate at the same time sustains our economy. The sense of my message here is, “let us just start with a single shining research institute with tens of best researchers, single special academic institute with tens of best professors and single special high school with tens of best teachers”, while the wide hubs will come sooner after dedicated national efforts.

Today when we see secretes of engineering technologies, applied sciences, medical sciences, agricultural sciences, management philosophies, etc. I feel they are not beyond Ethiopian intellectuals in fact they are being delivered by Ethiopians to other nations. We started to import some technologies, building infrastructures, using certain management philosophies of abroad and so on. As starters it has to be appreciated. But one question has to be answered. Are we empowering intellectual citizens to have all these tools so that we can develop domestic systems and finally run the economy by own capacity? As to me, it will be possible if and only if we answer this question so that we could keep on accelerating and sustaining our promising economy.

I consider the imported technologies, that became the basic sources and stimulators of our faster economy, like an already caught fish which we only need to cook and eat. I had a chance to observe machines planted by Russian Engineers during the Derg regime in Bahir-Dar University (the then Bahir-Dar Poly Technique College). Many of the huge and very costly machines are nonfunctional today. Thus, we need to catch the fish by ourselves so that we will not get starved whenever the already caught fish goes consumed or spoiled. We are having lots of huge projects assisted by foreign skill and knowledge. Now we need to have multiples of such projects and alike in future, for which we shall not call as many aids and professionals as we are calling today, that we have to perform by own capacity. To realize own capacity, building centers of high quality scientific research and academic excellence should be a parallel assignment of the Government and intellectual citizens. It is up to the competitive research and academics to protect from any incident of catastrophic fall of Nations’ economies that Ethiopia need to build to sustain its accelerating growth.

2.2 Boosting Quality of Education

As far as education is concerned, thanks to the vigorous strategies of the Government, Ethiopia has been achieving a remarkable development on the aspect of addressing “Education for all”. So far it has been reported that the extent of enrollment in to education reached around 95% which we could hardly dreamt of without the clear policies we have today. But I feel that the country has not excelled in quality of education as good as the achievement observed in number of enrollment.

Regarding this point, I believe that quality of education is not only a function of education materials that will come with economic development through time. Rather it is highly dependent on the students’ and society’s inspiration through education. We need to have something to tell to our children to lift their interest and focus in education, like “If you shine in your education you will join to this special high school, then this special institute, you will be best of bests, then you will join such a best research institute, then you will be such an important person for your country, then you will be highly paid person…and so on”. At this time I do not think we have a way to say like that. It will never bring any change to my child whether I will tell him that he will join Addis Ababa University or Semera University. After all whether he will score 4.00 or 2.00 he will have the same position and salary. In fact I do not want to say, “You will apply for foreign scholarship”, to my child as a method to inspire him. I remember when my friend ‘Kibue Girmay’ and I were creating home competition on our studies as we were informed that we can join Kalamino special high school (the special high school in Mekele, Tigrai) if we became out of the top scorers of the 8th grade General examination. That was the base for my current career given that no extra reference books, even a single dictionary, were accessible for us at the time.

Therefore, I believe that having particularly identified top research hubs and special academic institutes will dramatically change the path towards achieving the desired quality of education throughout the Nation, as the psychological impact of the real benefits gained by successful students from such institutes will ignite interest within the society.

Experience from India

To inspire the society through education there must be a mechanism to create a competitive environment between students and researchers in which individuals beginning from childhood could target the best and accordingly give attention to their education. The best performing student in elementary school has to get the best high school to join, the best one in high school has to join the best academic institute and the best graduate has to get the best research institute or the best position to serve the country. It is such philosophy what India is following and becoming fruitful. The level of understanding in education within the Indian society today is as strong as the proverb, ‘education is life’. It is a usual center of discussion for Indian high school students and their parents to talk about how to study and pass the competitive exam to join IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), which are special institutes in the Nation. Around 500,000 class 12 completed students from all over the country sit for the IITJEE (Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Exam) every year and average of 10,000 students get the intake chance in IITs.

India is also well known for its highly competitive nationwide exam called CSE (Civil Service Exam) for recruitment to the various civil services of the Government of India like IES (Indian Engineering Services), IRS (Indian Revenue services), IAS (Indian Administrative Services), IPS (Indian Police Services) and alike. This is opened for graduates having Bachelor Degree and above. Every term around 450,000 candidates sit for the exam with final success rate of 0.3% of the total applicants. The successful candidates must pass through three stage exams, namely the preliminary examination, main examination and personality test. After successful completion of these exams they will be considered as VIPs of the country and work with a high rank salary which enables them to live comfortably with lots of national responsibilities. It is an introduction of such systems which is enhancing the quality of education in India today.

2.3 Enhancement of State Supremacy

It is clear that the back bone to sustain the development and supremacy of western countries is their ever boosting scientific research as a result of their unwavering and determined academic systems. Having qualified research centers and academic institutes with full of national responsibilities have the ability to solve the basic problems of nation like food insecurity, luck of modern technology, health issues, governance problems, etc. Once such centers are empowered they are responsible to shape other academic and research institutes in the country, whether they are private or Governmental. The countries development should entirely be supported by research and intellectual inputs so that up on boosting our power through technology, we change the attitude inclination of developed countries on Ethiopia from their advisory role to allies’ way of relationship.

3. How to Achieve the Goal?

Even though the process of succeeding this issue is tough in terms of multiple factors including financial liabilities, I have a personal firm stand that we have to face the challenges and realize it. The primary step that should highly be emphasized is to respect education and to let it free of any political and other external influences which otherwise could lag the step towards excellence in the long run. Of course to respect education is to respect the value of having domestic intellectuals out of our society.

One can ask, “What is meant by respecting intellectuals?” I want to mean that the country has to invest at most to stabilize its educated people and minimize brain drain by providing them with the basic necessities and attractive salary so that they could be fulltime researchers and academicians and subsequently solving the country’s problems. The top ranked educated individuals have to lead and make their career in top institutes and we have to make sure that they are living the top life condition Ethiopia could ably provide as per their contribution. This makes Ethiopian intellectuals who are in the country or abroad to feel responsible and be dedicated on the effort to achieve the goal of realizing special research hubs and academic institutes. As intellectuals alone could not achieve the target, a task force involving all concerned stakeholders should be formulated and put their efforts to the fullest through extensive study and investment of such a flagship initiative.

4. Summary

The upcoming benefits and the challenges that the country has to tackle up on realizing top research hubs and academic institutes are summarized in bullet points as follows.

Upcoming Benefits

* Lead other research institutes and research Universities towards the right trajectory.

* Excel and sustain national development

* Improve societal life style

* Boost innovation, creativity and technology transfer

* Incubation of policy makers for the Nation and timely update Government policies

* Enhance engagement of outstanding researchers and academicians on national responsibilities

* Satisfaction of intellectuals

* Minimize brain drain

* Enhance education quality throughout the country

* Inspiration for students starting from childhood schooling up to higher educations

* National pride for the country


* Huge capital investment (needs extensive study)

* Requires wide and suitable land (Most probably to be situated in various sites depending on the environmental and distribution interests)

* Demands outstanding researchers, research level equipment & materials, qualified academicians hence successive training of man power

* Keenness from the Government side, intellectual citizens, financing sectors and other stakeholders


Acknowledgement: I am indebted to Major Teweldebrhan Kifle for his valuable comments on this particular article and for his inspiring advices that he shares me regarding contribution to society and many other aspects.


[1] National Academy of Engineering, “Engineering Research and America’s Future”, National Academies, USA, 2005.

[2] National Science Board, “Research and Development: Essential Foundation for U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Economy”, A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators, USA, 2008.

[3] National Science Board, “Research & Development, Innovation, and the Science & Engineering Workforce”, A Companion to Science and Engineering Indicators, USA, 2012.

[4] J.F. Sargent Jr., “The U.S. Science and Engineering Workforce: Recent, Current, and Projected Employment, Wages and Unemployment”, Congressional Research Service, USA, 2014.

[5] UNESCO Report, “Engineering: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Development”, France, 2010.

[6] FAFU JUNCAO Research Institute, “China National Engineering Research Center of JUNCAO Technology”, China, 2011.

[7] V. Sehgal, S. Sachan, K. Tominaga, “Globalization of Japanese Engineering Research Development: Option or Imperative?”, Booz and Company Inc, 2010.

[8] M. Sohoni, “Engineering Teaching and Research in IITs and its Impact on India”, Commentary, 2012.

[9] The African Development Bank Group Chief Economist Complex, “Ethiopia’s Economic Growth Performance: Current Situation and Challenges”, Economic Brief, Volume 1, Issue 5, 2010.


* Shishay Amare Gebremeskel is a PhD Research Scholar at Dep’t of Mechanical Engineering of IIT DELHI, India.

He is guest writer on HornAffairs and can be reached at [email protected]

Guest Author

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