Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Made in Ethiopia

This time the Italians didn't do it. No, we can't blame it on the government. Don't even try to put this on capitalism. It is all our fault - my fault, your fault, we all fault. Ethiopians not valuing Ethiopians, Ethiopia, and everything made in Ethiopia.

Preparing to buy furniture to match your new expensive house, you don't automatically consider furniture manufactured in Ethiopia, by Ethiopians, with Ethiopian raw materials. And why would we? We've been told that everything made in Italy is the best quality. And Ethiopia...well, Ethiopia is a third world country with third world material. And for my house, I need something durable, with a guarantee, and something with a quality finishing that screams made in Italy. This is sadly the mentality of many Ethiopians. While Ethiopian manufacturing companies struggle to compete on an unfair market with the foreign wealthy companies; we Ethiopians spend our money, time, and mouth advertising against them. The competition is clearly unfair in terms of the amount of money most foreign companies have invested in equipment, advertising, and presentation. But we individual Ethiopian consumers are making the competition even more difficult for our Ethiopian producers/brothers because of our misconception of Ethiopia's ability and worth.

It is true – the finished products of some Italian companies are more pleasing to the eye (on the surface). It is also true – that Italian companies in general are more trustworthy in terms of replacing damaged pieces and providing legitimate warranty. But it is also true that Ethiopia is a poor developing country. So, I think it is our responsibility as Ethiopians (with the money and education capacity to make conscious decisions) to sacrifice a little bit (just a little bit) to help our own companies by 1) reversing the idea (in your own mind first and then in your friend's) that foreign products are simply better than local products 2) actually go look at the local producers, the material they use, their history and fairly consider them as an equal competitor 3) don't be blindly impressed by the wonderful slide shows, advertisements, and the nice expensive shop location (Dumbel Mall) used by foreign producers – if the money is available it is easy to have these things; instead, look at the material they use, their warranty, the price, etc.

There are people trying to make Ethiopia a better place – trying to increase local economic activity. Globalization is making their efforts seem pointless. It's up to us the consumers to help them and in turn, help our country stand on its own.