Saturday Star

Blown away by Ethiopia


OH ETHIOPIA, you left me more depressed than impressed. If I was to only focus on your beautiful women, I would forget about all the imperfecti­ons of your country and of our continent. That would be an injustice to the humanitari­an and social entreprene­ur in me.

As I set my foot at the airport, I knew I was in a completely different country from where I come from. OR Tambo airport is world-class, and the Ethiopian airport was nothing compared to OR Tambo.

It’s like leaving Hollywood for Bollywood.

Sad. Depressing. Uninspirin­g. Provoking. Humbling.

I then realised that poverty was rife in the country and that South Africa was a better place to live in when one puts aside the corruption and slow social and economic developmen­t.

I really do not like saying this, but the truth is; South Africa and many other African countries are better because of colonialis­m. We are better developed because of the infrastruc­ture that was built by our colonisers. And you Ethiopia, you were never really colonised.

But Ethiopia, there is so much peace in the eyes of your villagers, the taxi driver, the little boy and girl who are heading to school and just looking forward to their day of learning.

It is so liberating and also astonishin­g to realise that these people are content with their lives. They reminded me of a quote from the movie I was watching recently, the Queen of Katwe. It shows destitutes with hope. The director of the movie, Mira Nair said; “The triumph of human spirit is not to weep for what we don’t have but to focus on what we do have and to allow us to go to places we never imagined possible.”

The people in your country are without worry. They are happy people. They are positive about life and everything it has to offer them. They appreciate the gift called life and they are optimistic.

I am a prisoner of hope myself. I believe that one day you will be a great country. I may not see you grow into a big economy in my lifetime. But I believe that my children or grandchild­ren shall live long enough to see you become a better country.

That is what you represent Ethiopia; you may not have much, but you personify ubuntu. You have been the epitome of human spirit in my eyes.

As I sat outside your internatio­nal airport, helpless and almost hopeless – I had made up my mind that I was going to sleep. I did not want to miss the AU Pre Gender summit, which was the reason for my visit to your humble home. I felt safe outside the airport. The chilly breeze reminded me of winter in Joburg.

However, I would not think of sleeping outside any airport in South Africa. In more than one way; you are blessed as a country Ethiopia. They would rob me off everything, even the very clothes I was wearing.

To a South African reading this; let me be frank with you. You are more blessed than many of your African brothers and sisters. Yes, the current crop of leaders in our country does not inspire hope in us, for a lack of a better phrase.

Life in the villages of Ethiopians is severely poor. Ethiopia left me depressed, but the Ethiopians left me inspired and so impressed by their humility and warmth.

They are not here to steal your jobs or your wives or girlfriend­s. They are here, literally to look for a better life and make the most of it.

Kabelo is the founder of the Young Men Movement; @KabeloJay kabelo03ch­

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