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Interview: Science, technology, and ODA in Ethiopia

· Abdissa Yilma
· Adviser to the minister of science &
  technology of Ethiopia
1. Please introduce yourself briefly.

Since September 2014, I am attending the technology management, economics and policy program at Seoul National University. I served in different government agencies as nuclear technology officer, patent examiner, and technology adviser. As an adviser to the Minister of Science & Technology of Ethiopia; I participated actively in STI policy formulation, establishment of national STI council, and reform of intellectual property system. In addition, I also took a leading role in the development of procedural directive for university-industry linkage, establishment of science & technology information center, and implementation of a program aiming at capacitating the national quality infrastructure. My main filed lies on integrating science & technology with the national development agendas of developing countries.

2. Could you explain how the budgeting process operates in the central government of Ethiopia?

There is a so called program budgeting. Each government agency submits its program together with the budget requirement every three years. Then the annual budget demand is submitted to the cabinet for approval. Finally the money will be distributed to the agencies account on a monthly basis once it has got the ratification of the parliament. Of course, there are cases including development organizations like USAID, DFID (Britain), GIZ (Germany), SIDA (Swedish), EU (European Union), and so on. The total budget is known by the central government and they are supposed to report the progress periodically.

3. In the case of South Korea, the government budget relies on tax. How about Ethiopia at this moment? Is there anything different among ministries in this term? If so, what is the main budget source for MoST in Ethiopia?

Currently more than 70% of the government budget comes from domestic tax. The rest is covered by long term loan or foreign aid. There is no difference among ministries. All the money either from local source or foreign one is directed to the government central treasury and then distributed to each agencies following the process indicated above. However, on the budget table there is a column that distinguishes the amount of money allocated from internal source and foreign source. All government agencies do not have a budget from the two sources. Only those agencies who administer projects or capacity building programs have budget from the two sources. For instance, MoST has additional budget that comes from Germany (GIZ) and European Union for a project called national quality infrastructure. The project was previously designed for two and half years and the total amount was around 11.6 million Euros. In our case, the budget was administered by GIZ and MoST as the owner of the project steers and oversees the overall implementation.

4. Can you explain "a process of utilizing ODA (Official Development Assistance) funding" for the science and technology area in Ethiopia? Who is the main decision-maker and how is the process going on?

There could be a number of projects of such type but the only project that is under direct supervision of MoST is the national quality infrastructure project I mentioned on number-2. Of course, there are small projects funded by Swedish government. For ODA there are different approaches

A) The government that wants to support a specific sector first approaches the concerned government agency. Then together they announce their decision to MoF. Finally after passing through the usual budget approval procedure the money will be allowed to be used by the Government agency and the donor.

B) The government that wants to support Ethiopia directly donates the money to MoF. Then MoF allocates the money as per the priorities identified in advance.

5. What percentage of annual budget is used for MoST?

I don’t have the exact data. But if you want to know the government expenditure to R&D from GDP; it is a bit more than 0.6%. This total amount is not directly funded by MoST; rather, MoF allocates to different government agencies based on their request.

6. Does the Ethiopia's MoST have a budget available for ODA? If so, how much is available in general annually?

As I mentioned earlier, once the government obtained ODA budget and assigned an implementing agency, there are cases where government allocates also a treasury budget for co-funding the project/program. For instance, in case of national quality infrastructure project, MoF was allocating for MoST around 1/4th of the total budget required to run the project. No government agency except public enterprises is allowed to make its own budget allocation without the knowledge of MoF.

7. Do you think that there has(have) been a change(s) in the Ethiopia's MoST after STEPI’s training programs? If so, what is it specifically? If not, why the training was not effective and what does STEPI have to do for the training program?

In the case of MoST, there is no single individual who has specialized in science and technology policy. Almost all staffs have a background of basic science, engineering or some kind of social science fields. It has been so difficult for long to produce something meaningful that can really take the ministry one step ahead. Without any exaggeration the training offered by STEPI helped us a lot at least to have the same language among the staff members. One good thing about the training was that it begins by identifying the knowledge and information gaps of our staffs. So the training conducted consecutively for two years contributed significantly to execute the plans of our ministry. One problem that we faced in relation to human resource is high turn-over. The significant number of staffs who took the training already left the ministry. This could create a gap on institutional memory. In my opinion, a long-term education can be a solution to retain qualified staffs. Because there is a system in which you are obliged to work for two years for every one year you spent in studying a graduate program. Even though a short-term training is playing a crucial role to address large number of staffs at once we can’t bring a radical change with this approach. Therefore, once again I would like to underline the need for a long-term education program in the area of science and technology policy, and technology and innovation management.

8. Do you have any ideas of new ODA projects for Ethiopia in terms of science and technology and S&T policy?

Beside the long term education program I mentioned on number 6, I propose the following project ideas:
- Technical support for industrial research institutes
- Ethiopian STI think tank
By the way, Ethiopian officials are more interested in a kind of support either in terms of laboratory equipment and technology incubation center, and technology park which are something physical.
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