Founded in 2013 to tackle issues including domestic violence and forced marriage through songs and online videos Yegna primary aim was to have an impact on the culture of the country by highlighting important social issues in the Ethiopian society. Its members Rahel Getu, Zebiba Girma, Eyerusalem Kelemework, Lemlem Haile Michael, and Teref Kassahun adopted stage names: Lemlem, Emuye, Sara, Mimi and Melat. The initial reception was, to a larger extent good; however, things started to get a bit shaky for the band, dubbed “Ethiopia’s Spice Girls”. It was the victim of a long-running campaign by The Daily Mail, which claimed grants to the group were a waste of money eventually leading the British government to withdraw its support. Now, things are looking up once again for the band having received new funding.
When Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Priti Patel, the right-wing parliamentarian as the face of British aid in 2016 following a poor electoral result that reduced the Tory party to that of minority status and was forced to appease the influential blue voice within caucus, Patel wanted to change the narrative of British aid as one that held “core Tory values”.
The darling of the ruthless British tabloid media that advocated for a protectionist British society with little regards to international aid and development, she wanted to echo a slew of one-liner initiatives borrowed from the editorials of the nation’s daily tabloid newspapers.
She was urged to help curb “waste in the 12 billion foreign aid budget at a time when social care is in crisis”.
To the British public that is more enthusiastic with band-aid solutions when it comes to Africa – starting from the efforts of Bob Geldof’s Do They Know Its Christmas charity effort – the idea of empowering women and girls was not a popular idea to endorse.
When the media found out the government was about to fund Ethiopia’s Yegna musical group, dubbed the “Spice Girls of Ethiopia”, the posh 1990s British all-female group that produced manufactured sounds, it was seen an excessive waste of money.
That was the shotgun to reduce Britons responsibility in the world and a hit for the British media.
For a period of one-week, Yegna became controversial and The Daily Mail, one of the most influential tabloid newspapers used it to lobby for the end of foreign aid and used a year-old report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact review of the Girl Hub programme (the name since changed to Girl Effect) to condemn the funding announcement.
The report had highlighted how the now Girl Effect group “remained concerned” (about Yegna) and that “DfID should consider in depth whether ongoing funding is merited and either reach a decision to cease funding or consider extending the project for a year to enable the evaluation to be completed”.
Despite an initial lukewarm endorsement of the initiative from Minster Patel, who credited the effort as one having an impact on women and girls on forced marriage and teenage pregnancies, the government withdrew its support. “We need to provide (taxpayers) with assurance that public money is being spent effectively and that our aid delivery partners apply the highest standards in transparency and ethical behavior,” she said.
The outcry was widespread, including from the aid community, the left-leaning Labor opposition which called her decision “sensationalist, headline-grabbing stories of waste and corruption (that) have become an ever increasing staple of British newspapers and from noted Britons, including poet, Lemn Sissay. “It’s wrong to let Yegna to hang out and dry,” he said. “They were the babies of the British Council, the former British ambassador to Ethiopia and the Nike Foundation. They all brokered this deal for the betterment of Ethiopia”.
Fast forward a year, in the midst of controversy and to some extent secrecy that has clouded its efforts from the outset, Yegna announced a new funding has been allocated to continue its work within Ethiopia. (The Reporter repeatedly reached out to Gayathri Butler, the country director of Girl Effect Ethiopia, but she rebuffed the request). “Our funders, including institutions and private donors are not willing to have their names made public,” she said.
Read more at thereporterethiopia
Forex crunch compels gov. to delay payments
16 December 2017
By Kaleyesus Bekele, The Reporter Ethiopia
The dearth of foreign currency is compelling the Ethiopian government to delay payments that should be made to international companies in US dollars.
The Reporter has learnt that the government has been unable to settle payments to oil companies that delivered petroleum products to the country in 2015-2017 according to schedule. Vitol Oil supplied diesel and gasoline to the Ethiopian Petroleum Supply Enterprise in 2015 and 2016 after winning the international tenders put up by the enterprise in two consecutive years. Vitol Oil’s second contract was terminated in December 2016.
Reliable sources told The Reporter that EPSE now owes Vitol Oil 20 million US dollars. “Though the company’s petroleum supply contract expired on December 2016 EPSE is unable to settle the remaining 20 million dollars due to foreign currency shortage. The National Bank of Ethiopia has not been able to provide dollars to settle the payment,” sources said.
Similarly the government is unable to settle a 170 million US dollars payment that was supposed to be made to Petro China, the Chinese oil company which has been supplying petroleum products to the country since January 2017. Petro China won the international bid floated by the EPSE in September 2016 and won the tender to supply diesel and gasoline for the 2017 fiscal year. Petro China’s contract will expire on December31, 2017.
Sources told The Reporter that the government now owes Petro China 170 million dollars for the petroleum products it supplied in the fiscal year. Usually payments should be settled within 90 days after the petroleum products have been delivered. According sources, the payment arears are now more than one year old.
Meanwhile international airlines flying to Addis Ababa are facing difficulty in repatriating their sales to their countries. Foreign carriers sell their tickets in the local currency Birr and repatriate their sales revenue in US dollars to their respective countries.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) told The Reporter that Ethiopia has joined the list of African nations where international airlines face difficulties in repatriating their funds. According to IATA, Ethiopia owes foreign carriers 22 million dollars.
In an interview in his office in Geneva, Switzerland Alexander de Juniac, director general and CEO of IATA, said that nine African countries have a total of 1.1 billion dollars in airlines’ blocked funds. Angola has the largest airlines blocked fund-507 million USD, Algeria-146 million, Sudan-125 million, Nigeria-121 million, Eritrea-64 million, Zimbabwe-52 million, Mozambique-33 million, Ethiopia 22 million and Libya 20 million.
Juniac told The Reporter that most of the countries faced shortage of foreign currency due to the drop in oil price while others have their own economic challenges. “We have been working with African governments to get the airlines blocked funds released and we are successful in releasing most of the funds in Egypt and Nigeria,” Juniac said.
The Ethiopian government officials explain that the country is facing the foreign currency crunch due to the commodity price decline in the international market stunting the foreign currency earnings. The increasing fuel imports and hefty expenditures on mega infrastructure projects are among the long list of contributing factors to the foreign currency shortage. The government is taking various measures to stimulate the weakened export.