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From Pews to Progress

How the Church Can Tackle Ethiopia’s Unemployment Crisis

During my tenure as a Program Officer for Research and Projects at SOPHOS AFRICA—an impassioned local NGO envisioning a society resilient and flourishing—we bore witness to a disconcerting reality. In January 2023 alone, in the vibrant heart of Addis Ababa, we diligently registered an overwhelming tally of over 3000 unemployed young graduates, amplifying the urgency for innovative solutions to this burgeoning predicament. This reality paints a stark picture—one that compels us to delve deeper into the pressing issue at hand.

Ethiopia grapples with a barrage of pressing challenges, demanding attention and solutions from every corner. Yet, amidst the tumultuous landscape, a daunting issue looms large: the staggering unemployment rates. Startling statistics from the Ministry of Education lay bare the extent of this crisis, revealing that a mere 58 percent of university graduates find employment in Ethiopia. A whopping 42 percent of these skilled individuals remain jobless after graduation—a jarring revelation in a nation where legions emerge from esteemed academic institutions. The youth unemployment rate climbed by 0.09 percentage points in 2022, hitting an alarming 4.02 percent, the second highest recorded during the observed period according to World Bank. In the face of this burgeoning crisis, it beckons us to question the potential role of the local church in staunching this tide of unemployment.

This revelation was not just a statistic; it was a call to action. The following suggestion for an alternative solution to this crisis is born out of a reflection I had as I interviewed and learned the stories of many young graduates who are unemployed. Their struggles are real and poignant, reflecting the need for immediate and effective intervention. In understanding the depths of this challenge, we must explore innovative pathways, considering the expertise and reach of various entities, including the invaluable role that local churches can play.

Navigating Ethiopia’s Youth Unemployment: Government’s Limitations and the Church’s Potential

Ethiopia’s young graduates face a challenging future with the government’s diminishing capacity to provide employment opportunities. Over recent years, the situation has worsened, culminating in a significant setback—the government’s announcement of a hiring freeze in 2016 E.C. This decision has left countless educated young Ethiopians grappling with unemployment despite their qualifications and potential. The limitations of the government in this regard have become increasingly apparent, urging us to explore viable alternative approaches to tackle this pressing unemployment crisis.

One poignant story that starkly illustrates the severity of Ethiopia’s unemployment crisis is that of Dr. Nardos, a newly licensed medical doctor who graduated in 2023. Her sudden disappearance for two days drew significant attention on social media, shedding light on the grim realities she faced. It was later revealed that her disappearance was rooted in her battle with depression, a battle triggered by her struggles to secure employment despite her qualifications. Dr. Nardos, a devoted Christian and an active member of an evangelical church, sought support within her church community during this trying time. However, the assistance she received was limited to comforting her family after her unexplained absence. This narrative poses a vital question: Should the church’s role be confined to providing comfort and solace, or can it evolve into a more proactive force in tackling the unemployment crisis and making a tangible difference in the lives of its congregants?

The Church’s Theological Imperative in Tackling Unemployment

In Matthew 5, Jesus metaphorically describes his followers as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” emphasizing the transformative and illuminating role believers should play in society. Salt, symbolizing positive influence and preservation of goodness, enhances flavor and preserves. Similarly, light, representing guidance and truth, dispels darkness. Amid Ethiopia’s unemployment crisis, the church, embodying this metaphor, should act as a catalyst for positive change by providing employment opportunities for young graduates. The church becomes the “salt” that enriches lives and preserves hope, and the “light” that guides graduates towards a brighter future.

In his impactful book “Courageous Leadership,” Bill Hybels passionately advocates for the local church to embrace its role as the hope of the world. He fervently believes that the church should not only address the spiritual needs of its community but also actively engage with societal issues. A prime example is the Willow Creek Community Church, under Hybels’ leadership, which initiated job training programs, partnered with local businesses, and provided support to struggling community members. This proactive approach exemplifies how a local church, committed to being a beacon of hope, can significantly address pressing issues like unemployment. This resonates deeply in the Ethiopian context, urging churches to follow this exemplary path.

In his groundbreaking book “The Purpose Driven Church,” Rick Warren underscores the significance of the church as a solution provider for the communities it serves. Warren encourages churches to identify the unique needs of their community and tailor their efforts to address them effectively. By engaging with unemployed youth and offering them opportunities for community service, churches align with this purpose-driven approach. The church, as a solution provider, can utilize its resources and influence to tackle unemployment, fostering a sense of purpose and direction among young graduates. Embracing this purpose-driven ethos, churches in Ethiopia can become engines of transformation, positively impacting the lives of many and illuminating a path to a brighter future.

Collectively, these theological insights call upon the church to rise to the occasion, embracing its divine mandate to employ young graduates for community service. By doing so, the church can wield its influence, embody hope, and drive purposeful change—thus becoming a tangible force for good in the lives of countless young Ethiopians seeking a path to a better and brighter future.

Empowering Through Action: A Practical Blueprint for Church-Led Employment of Young Graduates


As the church takes on its theological mandate, it must translate its faith into tangible actions, including a proactive approach towards youth unemployment.

Local churches in Ethiopia possess substantial resources, with an average budget of more than 3,000,000 Ethiopian Birr for those with 1000 members in Addis Ababa alone. Simultaneously, many young graduates, including doctors and engineers, grapple with unemployment despite possessing valuable skills. A viable solution emerges when local churches engage in employing these graduates for community service. By offering positions in critical sectors such as hospitals, schools, and construction projects, the church can leverage its resources to support both the graduates and the community. Financial support from the church ensures that these young graduates can effectively utilize their skills.

To effectively facilitate the employment of young graduates, local churches can implement a systematic approach. Initially, churches can establish a dedicated committee or task force responsible for overseeing this employment initiative. Collaborating with educational institutions and job placement agencies, this committee can identify suitable candidates based on their educational background and skills. Subsequently, the church can conduct interviews and select individuals for community service positions, matching their expertise with the requirements of various sectors. For instance, doctors and medical professionals can be placed in local hospitals, engineers in construction projects, and educators in schools.

Once employed, the church can establish fruitful partnerships with local public facilities, hospitals, schools, or construction projects, enabling young graduates to actively contribute based on their expertise. These graduates, financially supported by the church, can offer their services, knowledge, and skills to benefit the broader community. This symbiotic integration not only provides much-needed professional opportunities for the graduates but also enhances the capacities of essential public facilities, ultimately benefiting society as a whole. By nurturing this relationship, local churches effectively channel their resources to address unemployment while simultaneously enhancing community well-being.

Successfully implementing this practical action plan necessitates overcoming challenges and forging a harmonious balance between ministerial responsibilities and community engagement.

Challenges to Be Addressed

While the idea of local churches employing young graduates for community service is promising, several challenges must be addressed. One significant challenge revolves around the relationship and compensation between full-time ministers and young graduates. Striking a balance between the two groups and ensuring fair compensation is essential to maintain harmony within the church community. Additionally, the church’s ability to oversee the employed young graduates and ensure they are fulfilling their roles effectively needs to be established and managed. Overcoming these challenges is vital to make this initiative successful and impactful in reducing Ethiopia’s unemployment crisis.

Conclusion

The youth unemployment crisis in Ethiopia demands our collective attention and action. The church, with its potential to be a beacon of hope and a force for positive change, must play an active role. The call to address this issue transcends statistical analysis; it embodies the dreams deferred and untapped potential of an entire generation. The church, envisioned as a beacon of hope and catalyst for societal change, bears a profound moral duty and abundant resources to partake in this transformative journey. Dr. Nardos’ story echoes a universal plea for the church to extend its reach beyond the pews, underscoring the need for visionary leadership and tangible empowerment. Yet, this call extends to us all—individuals and communities—urging us to engage, reflect, and contribute. Let us unite, envisioning a vibrant Ethiopia where every youth realizes their potential, the church stands as a beacon of hope, and together, we illuminate a path to a brighter future.

Naol Befkadu

Naol Befkadu Kebede (BTh, student of MA in Ministry and Medical Doctorate student at AAU) is the founder and contributor of Lechristian Blog, an online ministry that aims to redeem cultures for the glory of God and to inspire and encourage believers for the completion Great Commission. Naol has authored an Amharic book titled "ተነሺ ፤ አብሪ" (2015) that motivates young believers for a meaningful and radical life.

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ዘመነ አስተርእዮ

የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተ ክርስቲያን ዓመቱን በወቅቶች ከፋፍላ፥ በዚያ ላይ የተመሠረቱ መዝሙሮችን በግእዝ ለእግዚአብሔር በማቅረብና ድንቅ ሥራውን በመዘከር ትታወቃለች። ለዚህም በስድስተኛው ምእት ዓመት የተነሣው የዜማ ደራሲ ቅዱስ ያሬድ ከብሉያትና ከሐዲሳት (ከመጽሐፍ ቅዱስ)፣ ከሊቃውንትና ከመሳሰሉት መጻሕፍት ለምስጋናና ለጸሎት የሚስማሙ ንባባትን በመውሰድና ለዜማ ተስማሚ በማድረግ፥ በአራቱ ክፍላተ ዘመን እንዲነገሩ ማዘጋጀቱን የዜማ ሊቃውንት ያስረዳሉ (ጥዑመ ልሳን /ሊቀ ካህናት/ 1981፣ 28)። አራቱ ክፍላተ ዘመን የተባሉትም በዓመት ውስጥ የሚገኙት አራቱ ወቅቶች ናቸው፤ እነርሱም መፀው (ወርኀ ጽጌ ዘመነ ጽጌ/አበባ)፣ ሐጋይ (በጋ)፣ ጸደይ (በልግ) እና ክረምት ሲኾኑ፣ አኹን የምንገኘው ከአራቱ ክፍላተ ዘመን ኹለተኛው ክፍል በኾነው በበጋ (ሐጋይ) ላይ ነው።

ተጨማሪ ያንብቡ

1 comment

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  • Dear Naol Befkadu,
    The issues your raise (unemployment and depression) need urgent, sustained, and comprehensive response. Just this week a story of a beautiful young lady taking her own life was circulating over social media. Sorry but such tragic happenings are becoming the new normal. They are largely the result of importation of unchecked, alienating cultures, the weakening of real (vs. electronic) communities and basic accountability structures, and Church and ruling party raising high (false) hopes by politicizing prosperity gospel heresy, preaching “self-actualization/mindset” doctrines, the proliferation of addictive online activities along with politics of envy. The two books you cited have very limited use in Ethiopian context. Ethiopian evangelicals and churches have to first revisit and clarify for themselves Jesus’s purpose for their existence before coming together to address items you pointed out. The way things are, only the reviving power of Jesus and his Holy Spirit could turn things around! Let us pray that that will happen sooner than later.

    p.s.: Topics addressing local issues should be written in cliche-free Amharic so many could take part; Hinset publishers should require that!

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