Monday, December 18

The Process

If there is one thing I have learned living in Ethiopia, it is that everything, apparently, is a “process”!

From trying to obtain a driving permit, to Vickie Huddleston’s patronizing assessment of democracy, it seems there are as many “Ministries” and “appropriate channels” in Addis as there are taxis!

Last week I went to inquire on behalf of some generous private donors interested in starting up a small, non-profit school in an undeveloped kebele. (Who knew it is also an entirely separate “process”, just to begin the “process” itself! The civil service sector really has outdone themselves on this one, in my opinion…)

My first mistake, in retrospect, must have been to start out at the most logical place of all --the Ministry of Education. After waiting about 20 minutes in 3 separate lines, I was finally directed “around the back and up maybe 3 or 4 floors” to an office, where I was informed that they had absolutely no idea where I should direct my inquiries. I was then sent to 2 more offices, where I again repeated my questions to no avail, and was eventually directed to an entirely different regional bureau in another part of town.

Finding the place (no small feat in itself!) gave me a renewed sense of purpose, and I marched into the first office, confident they would provide the information requested by my Western friends.

The secretary looked me up and down and immediately went back to her typing—treatment admittedly unusual for a ferenji in Addis--“especially one who is acting as an ambassador of goodwill,” or so I impatiently told myself. Finally, after 15 minutes or so, she directed me across the courtyard—to the first of the 4 offices that would consume the rest of my day.

I literally went back and forth between these offices for hours, unable to obtain even the official protocol required for starting up such a project. One suggested, I “might, maybe want to go to the Ministry of Justice?….(Which is somewhere by the Cathedral…?”). Another suggested I “could possibly try the Director of Curriculum…?”. The third determined I should probably visit the “head educational statician” or “perhaps try the social and NGO Affairs Bureau?” (does such a place even exist in Addis?!).

Before I knew it, I found myself right back where I started, as the fourth person insisted I must “most certainly start with the Ministry of Education”!

I could go on about how I spent an additional 3 hours in that building in vain, or gripe about the futility of trying to construct a detailed budget from the vague and inconsistent data I received…Or, for that matter, the lamentable inadequacy of the civil service sector in the hands of the EPRDF and the not-so-subtle suggestion that I “hire” someone (for a generous bribe--excuse me, fee--of $450 USD!) to help “expedite the process”…

But, today I am at home, happy instead to grab a beer, put on some music and laugh about it.
…After all, the “process” will surely begin again in the morning

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sad but true...inefficiency and incompetence all around as long as you are loyal seems to be the forte. Bad managers make for bad workers...

The "process" in place is also a headache after you get to the correct department. I remember I had to go back and forth between five or six people who sent me over or back just to get a notorized letter assigning someone to take care of somethings on my behalf.

Anonymous said...

In 2000 I spent two months in Addis going from one office to another trying to establish a Wholistic retreat center with a childrens Park in the outskirts of Addis Abeba that went no where. I would be sent to so and so's office who supposedly heads a department to find out that person is either in prison or is no longer in the country. To get that answer would take me weeks, I would just be told he is not in - then the final truth would come out. In the process I was swindled in the tune of of $5,000 US - My business plan had to be in line with the Ethiopian Invesment Office (the BP written for me was a piece of crap the person who wrote it had no understanding of what I had in mind, although I had given him a BP that I had put together before going to the EIB) - a land survey - filing fees - expert time etc. With a result of zero return. Anything for the betterment of the country or the people is not wanted and they will frustrate the hell out of you. The only way can succeed in doing anything is if he wines and dines with the top officials which I was not about to do. So good luck on your project and wish you all the success.

hewe said...

Hey don’t give up. It took my mom about a year of going back and forth (if not longer) to start hers. There is nothing written that lets you know what you should do so whatever you were told might change a week later when you go back. I wrote a little bit about my experience on my friend’s blog, the 2nd part is about the place a little bit and the picture is of the kids. Let me know if you want me to give you few pointers and check out the blog...
http://christian-perspective.blogspot.com/2006/11/suffering-children.html

Anonymous said...

Hmm... You are a "Ferenji" and you got all that maltreatment? That is unlikly in Ethiopia... knowing how people bend backward to help "Ferenjies" ... but there are ineffecencies in Ethiopia, that need to be streamlined...

Anonymous said...

If the whole weyane hierarchy is living off begging why would the lesser souls have a work ethic.

For the lasyt 15 fuc**** years the society has been told it pays to be lazy and stretch your hand for bribes. They see meles, alamoudi, and the rest of the sobs living high on the hog by stealing the country blind.

No one should invest in Ethiopia right now. It's utterly useless. Wait until Kinijit comes to power we will show you how it is done.

Anonymous said...

you should start a blog 'hewe'. nice experience but it took me a long time to get to your section

Anonymous said...

Please keep us posted on "the process" Officious types are against education for them it is a self defeating process.