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Interview


사진Wondwossen Kiflu
Former Minister,
Ministry of Education Ethiopia



First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do the interview. This is your first stay and study to Korea. What are your thoughts on Korea and Korea’s S&T development in particular?

Although in the last 15 years I have been to Korea about 5 times on official work visits for brief stays, this is the first time for me to stay longer. While the longer stay is giving me a better understanding of Korea in general, especially looking from the perspective of a student gives me a deeper insight on what makes Korea a technology power house by its own right. From the efforts of students trying to absorb much in a limited time you can see 'the hardworking Koreans' spirit mentioned by professor lin su kim in his book 'imitation to innovation' is still alive. As education in general and STEM excellence in particular is critical in the creation of a knowledge society it can be easily seen that all efforts are on par with this notion. Saying that, the challenge for Korea now is much different from the early years of fast development where learning from developed nations by either imitation or incremental improvement was good enough for building a S&T infrastructure and the competitiveness of the industry then. The current stage where Korea has to competently position itself demands innovation as a key for success. This means that the whole S&T infrastructure has to be checked whether it can unleash the innovativeness of a critical mass. In addition to this the competition from new comers like china has to be also considered carefully.


What is your main goal for Ethiopian Government? And in previous, What was the role of Ministry of Education in promoting human capital development in Ethiopia?

The long term development goal of Ethiopia is indicated as REACHING THE HIGHER INCOME THRESHOLD IN 40 TO 45 YEARS. This goal is further divided into goals of reaching lower and upper middle income status in 7 and 25 years respectively. It is expected that the double digit growth of the past 10 years can be achieved at least in the early years of the envisaged 45 years. Light manufacturing is assumed to expand in the coming years paving the way for structural transformation of the economy from agriculture to manufacturing based.

The early years of education reform was focused on increasing the enrollment rate at the lower level which gradually moves to increasing access at vocational & higher education level. In recent years the focus is shifting to improving quality of education at all levels with STEM education as the main focus.


Could you introduce Ethiopia’s focal projects or programs to enhance public perception of S&T in Ethiopia?

The early initiatives were much more focused on increasing the share of science and engineering education and refining the curricula at all levels based on benchmarked best practices. In recent years the initiatives are getting much more consolidated starting by establishing responsible bodies such as the ministry of science and technology. This ministry in addition to having different S&T institutions is overseeing two science and technology institutes specifically created to bring out best talents for the future industry as well as the academia. The acknowledgment of achievers in S&T is helping in shaping the mindset of the society which to certain extent was more leaning to social knowledge rather than technological knowledge.


Ethiopian government is currently conducting a cooperation project in partnership with STEPI.
How do you think this cooperation with Korea can promote STI development in Ethiopia?


The most important factor in the cooperation can be identified by answering the question ' How appropriate is the S&T experience of Korea for developing countries like Ethiopia who aspire to end the vicious cycle of poverty? '. For many countries which are still struggling to break out of the lower income trap the unique way in which Korea has emerged from a least developed country with meager natural resource to be among nations with strong economy in less than 50 years is not simply an economic model to learn from but most importantly a living lesson in mobilizing a society for a better future. It is on this fundamental basis that Ethiopia is trying to establish its cooperation with Korea. The initiatives with STEPI which are more than 5 years old have gradually becoming more refined as expertise from both countries get to know better about how the other is working. This is very important since trying to implement what Korea has done one to one is practically impossible and even might lead to frustrations.

The S&T road map that is being designed for about 8 key development sectors once finalized can be a good strategic instrument for policy makers as well as implementers. As was elaborated in the current 5 year growth and transformation plan- GTP2(2015/16 up to 2020/21) focus is given to the expansion of light manufacturing in selected sectors. This will serve as the base to the creation of a strong manufacturing sector to evolve at the latter stages of the long term industrialization vision. The key for the success is none other than having the necessary technology infrastructure in place which has to be done well ahead of establishing the industry. This is why the road map that is being designed by STEPI is critical for the whole industrialization initiative. Here care must be taken so that the design is a joint effort to bring ownership from the start where the absence of it might create a beautifully designed paper tiger.
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