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The ‘I’

Logos of public institutions in Ethiopia are one of the things that I have always found to be quite puzzling. Be it logos of political parties, or universities, and some ministries, the logos are simply busy, complicated and quite difficult to distinguish and remember. The logo of the ministry of agriculture, which thankfully has been totally modified and is quite easy to remember now, is one the logos that has for long confused me.  There is on the logo pictures of just everything about each of the things that the ministry is supposed to work on. Livestock, crops, water, mechanization, you name it. Everything just had to be included. I bet this logo has taken quite long discussions and debates among those who created it. For me, this kind of busy logo is an indication of the really weak team culture that exists in public institutions, among other things which include a very weak level of creativity. I have never been in a discussion that involved coming up with a design of a logo, but I imagine that there is this mentality that most participants’ if not everybody’s ideas should be included in the logo. Otherwise, the risk for resentments and grudges can be really high. So, maybe that’s why we, the audience, need to see in the logo every picture of every goal the public institution is aiming at.

I just cannot say enough about the poor team culture that exists in Ethiopian public institutions in particular, and in other sectors in general. I never quite understood why that is so. We Ethiopians are said to be known by our collective and strong social bond. Strong social bond has long remained a brand of the country. We eat together, sharing the same plate, we are quite welcoming of guests, and we never fail to support each other during hard times. In the rural area, farmers in the same neighborhood assemble and cooperate for free to work on the land of their peers. But when it comes to modern institutions, and particularly the public ones, we fail miserably at team work. And the resulting costs are just tremendous. Yesterday, I heard an interview by the philosophy professor Dagnachew Assefa (PhD) that one of our problems is that the importance of the ‘I’ overtakes that of the ‘We’. He indicated that the ego is just too strong to look beyond the ‘I’. I totally agree with his view point. I wonder where that kind of mentality comes from. We all have egos, Ethiopians or not. But what I think differentiates us Ethiopians, is that we fail to understand that giving more importance to the ‘we’ has in the long term more benefits that the ‘I’. The Commons Dilemma where people's short-term selfish interests are at odds with long-term group interests and the common good sadly applies to us.

I have been recently asking about where we are on the Diaspora Trust Fund that the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) initiated to support socio-economic projects in Ethiopia with money raised from the Ethiopian Diaspora. And sadly, I heard that the Fund is being challenged by our weak team culture. Cracks in the boards’ governance system and conflicts of interest of some board members who wish to illicitly benefit their own companies with public money are threatening the Fund and preventing it from operating at full potential. This only causes the Diaspora community to be suspicious of the Fund and a dwindling of funds raised. And of course, the poor in Ethiopia will pay. As always. As long as the ‘I’ wins over the ‘we’, we will never win poverty!

Contributed by Tsion Taye
Contributed by Tsion Taye