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Letters from Ethiopia - Part 1

By May of 2020, the pandemic already had dealt heavy blows to Ethiopia’s economy. Reduced employment and household incomes were some of the biggest issues afflicting Ethiopians. Surveys indicated that in April 2020, more than half of households in Addis Ababa reported that incomes were either reduced or completely gone (Dione, 2020). Additionally, more than 42% of registered firms reported operations to be completely ceased and 37% reported no revenues between March and April (Dione, 2020).

When Abye reached out to our travelers on May 12, 2020, he communicated how the situation in Ethiopia was disastrous, despite the low levels of infection, due to the economic impacts of lockdown. Abye described the situation as: “Hotels, schools, most small businesses are still closed. I have been looking for a Teaching job but almost all institutions are not hiring [until] the next school season.” Abye elaborated that even though he usually worked as a freelance tour leader (how our travelers came to know him!) to support his family, he doubted that he would find any work in this area until September.

After doing lots of research and brainstorming, Abye conveyed that the main businesses doing well at this point were the transportation and delivery businesses. However, with financial constraints being a major concern, Abye turned to our travelers to request a business loan to use along with his savings to purchase a van to start a car rental business. Quickly within a month, thanks to the coordination and kindness of our travelers, Abye was able to secure enough funds to purchase a van and enter the transportation business which was one of the few services still in heavy demand.

Abye wrote to our travelers: “First and foremost, I want to begin my message by thanking the group for believing in me and for helping me in acquiring a van that will enable me to continue to support my family during this time of crisis… Until normal life returns, I will be in the transportation business [because] there's always demand for it. We are at the beginning of the rainy season and the demand for transportation from the public is growing. My daughter Gelila, my family and myself are hoping that after the end of the lockdown and all this nightmare you can all return to Ethiopia so that I can show you Harar, Bale mountains, the rift valley lakes and a very special place called Wenchi in our own vehicle. A very big Hug to all of you, my deepest appreciation for deciding to help me out in this critical moment of our lives.”

Dione, Ousmane. 2020. “Tackling the impacts of COVID-19 is imperative to Ethiopia’s journey to prosperity.” World Bank, October 29, 2020.,revenues%20in%20March%20or%20April.

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