Growing collaborations in Ethiopia
Written by Mandira Banerjee
ADDIS ABABA: An online cancer database. Soil restoration and conservation. Groundwater and sanitation. Reproductive health. Visual culture of orthodox churches. Capacity building in engineering.
These are just some of the issues University of Michigan students and faculty are tackling in Ethiopia in research collaborations with Ethiopian universities and organizations.
For example, graduate students from the U-M School of Public Health have spent the last three months in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, putting in place the country’s first online cancer database at St. Paul Millennium Hospital in partnership with Ethiopia’s Public Health Institute.
Faculty and students from U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability are in the North Shewa region assessing the impact of a nonprofit organization in soil restoration and conservation in the mountainous area.
“As the University of Michigan begins our third century, we are eager to work with our Ethiopian partners to solve problems, to make new discoveries and to create meaningful change,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel in a video message to more than 150 researchers who had gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss their research, strengthen relationships and build new connections.
U-M researchers were joined by colleagues from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopian Public Health Institute, St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College, the University of Gondar, the University of Axum and other organizations across Ethiopia to attend the third Michigan-Ethiopia Collaborative Consortium Conference.
“Bringing partners and researchers together sparks new connections and relationships. It infuses energy and also showcases the deep connections University of Michigan has built in Ethiopia,” said James Holloway, U-M vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs.
Ethiopia is a country of 100 million people. Located in East Africa just above the equator, it has overtaken Kenya as the fastest-growing nation in the sub-Saharan region. As its fortunes improve, the country is rushing to build new infrastructure, hospitals and universities, which has created a demand for engineers, educators, doctors and researchers.
“We have to form partnerships to solve society’s problems,” said Senait Fisseha, U-M adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who was the top strategic advisor for Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African director at World Health Organization.
Fisseha first invited Dr. Tedros to U-M in 2011 when he was the health minister of Ethiopia to discuss partnerships that has grown to include more than 10 schools and colleges. Holloway says that U-M is committed to mutually beneficial relationships as the university explores ways to deepen and expand the exchange.
“We are constantly seeking ways to bring new opportunities and perspectives to U-M’s educational and research activities in Africa,” said A. Oveta Fuller, director of the African Studies Center.