‘‘Every year, the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), would need 50,000 skilled professionals in the road sector of which, 5,000 are civil engineers with MSc degree. This sector being dynamic, the volumes of projects and sophistication works continue to grow that keeps our need changing all the time,’’ said the Deputy Director General of ERA, Mr Bekele Negussie.


In his suave and composed demeanor, Mr Bekele, revealed this in an exclusive interview with Arba Minch University’s Corporate Communication Directorate. The former had been to AMU during consultative meeting over ERA-sponsored courses in seven universities.

It’s learnt this premier infrastructure institution came into being in 1951, which then was called, Imperial Highway Authority, the oldest road authority in entire Africa. Mr Bekele entered ERA as an economist and went on to become Deputy Director General.

Spelling out ERA’s prime motive, he said, ‘‘Ethiopia can easily get things done with foreign contractors, but we want to build the capacity of indigenous professionals, students, teachers, universities and institutions to be self-reliant and self-sustaining that will phase out outsiders.’’

As per the plan, ERA plans road projects and need engineers to take those projects to the successful completion. Therefore, we want students to graduate in six sponsored programs; hitherto, 3100 civil engineers have been enrolled and many are in queue to be graduated.

ERA is sponsoring six programs pertaining to the road construction in seven universities i.e. Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, Jimma Institute of Technology, Bahir Dar University, Hawassa, Mekelle and Arba Minch Universities.

Getting into the specifics of ERA role, he said, ‘‘We are meant to provide infrastructure and skilled professionals to the industry; basically, it has to be done by the universities, but we are here to fill the gaps. ERA is earmarking, ETB 100 Birr annually for training purposes, he added.

On AMU, he said, ‘‘Being involved in the research activities; AMU has shown great willingness to run the courses. Despite, inadequate infrastructure and slim manpower they are doing fine. They have also shown great interest in hosting this important consultative workshop, which is the second in a row. Hence, ERA would support them by evolving a program to recruit teachers from outside, so that they can run more programs.

The issues like drop-outs, dismissal and withdrawal are dogging almost all institutions, that might have some reasons; but they are told to solve the issue by themselves through proactive engagement. ERA further suggested universities to improve the quality of education and churn out graduates with or without thesis.

Delineating the national scenario, he said, ‘‘Four years ago, Ethiopia had 48,000 km of the road network, now it is 90,000 km and in future we have a plan to construct 1,36,000 km-long road network across Ethiopia which would link 18000 kebeles through the nearest roads.

The minimum road network requirement of Ethiopia is 2, 80,000 km, though, the project in this regard hasn’t been conceived, but it would take at least 10 years to get it materialized. On financing aspect, he said, 70% fund is generated internally whereas only 30% is being funded by the foreign donors.

Substantiating his claims that ERA is the most important segment in the chain of progress that the nation has, he said, if roads are missing, it will hamper development, you just can’t move your products to the market. Roads are the lifeline for any nation; it’s sine qua non,’’ he quipped.

By Philips Joseph