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  • Singapore signed an avoidance of double taxation agreement with Ethiopia

    Singapore on Wednesday (Aug 24) inked bilateral tax, investment and air services agreements with Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria at the Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF). International Enterprise (IE) Singapore also announced at the forum the establishment of its third overseas centre in Africa. Due to open in Nairobi, Kenya in 2017, the centre will give Singapore companies access to the fast-growing East Africa region.

    Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran signed an avoidance of double taxation agreement with Ethiopia, an investment treaty with Mozambique and an air services agreement with Nigeria.

    The bilateral agreements are expected to clarify the taxing rights of the signatory countries on all forms of income flows arising from cross-border business activities, create greater confidence for investors, and facilitate people-to-people flows.

    In a joint statement issued by the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance and Transport, Mr Iswaran said Singapore companies must venture beyond traditional overseas markets to seize opportunities in untapped countries in regions such as Africa.

    "Ethiopia, Mozambique and Nigeria are three fast-growing African economies and the agreements signed today signify commitment on the part of Singapore and the respective African governments to support trade, tourism and investment between our countries," he said.

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  • Kenya Supports Tedros Adhanom’s Campaign for WHO Leadership

    Kenya appears to have thrown its weight behind Ethiopia's candidate for the position of executive director of the World Health Organisation. Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the only African vying to head the WHO.

    On Monday, Health CS Cleopa Mailu held private discussions with Tedros in Addis Ababa during the just-ended WHO's regional meeting on implementation of the universal health coverage. Tedros said if appointed, he will work closely with Kenya to learn how homegrown solutions have transformed healthcare in Kenya and how they can be replicated in the rest of the region.
    He also promised to make Africa his priority.

    “As the former Minster of Health in Ethiopia he understands the regions diseases burden,” said a statement from Kenya's Ministry of Health. Mailu told Tedros to help African countries gain more control of their health agenda through domestic financing. Tedros would be the first African to head the global health body.

    In January, the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government endorsed him as the sole candidate from Africa.

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  • The Ashenda Holiday

    Three days of women!  Ashenda is a holiday celebrating women here in Northern Ethiopia mostly in the Tigray region.  It corresponds to the end of a two week fasting period for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians commemorating the Virgin Mary, but the holiday has grown way beyond that now.  I’ve been hearing good and bad things about Ashenda since arriving in Ethiopia.  Most of my local friends think this holiday is the best thing to happen all year.  Some disagree and say that it objectifies women and encourages begging and is just another holiday in a region with too many holidays disrupting things.  Some of my Peace Corps friends told me to hide away in my house because the harassment will be too much as women bombard you  asking for mandatory “donations.”  Other Peace Corps Volunteers told me to embrace it, stockpile a bunch of small bills and enjoy it.  I chose the latter and had a great time over the past 3 days participating in Ashenda.

     

    Ashenda Day 1

    Prepare yourself for Ashenda!  I was told by everyone to get ready for the best (or worst) holiday celebrated here.  Depending on your perspective I guess.  As usual, I really had no idea what to expect.  I expected to spend money so I’d been saving my small bills for a week or two in anticipation.  I got ready to go into my office as usual on Thursday and went in to find most of my colleagues there.  A few hours into the day and all of a sudden the whole office just got up and declared that they were done working for the day since it was Ashenda.  We all walked to the older part of town where there was supposed to be some sort of celebration for the holiday.  Upon arrival to the market, which was transformed into a sort of amphitheater, I was greeted by a few of the local leaders of Abi Adi and told to sit in the “VIP Area” next to the stage.   There was a band playing Ethiopian music and a few different singers taking turns singing traditional Ashenda songs.

    The audience kept growing and growing until it seemed like the whole town was there watching the ceremony.  I had a great seat in the little VIP area so I was happy to stay as long as necessary to see what developed.  There were all sorts of interesting acts including dancers, skits, speeches, poems, and music.  Ethiopian TV was there to cover the event, for national news I think, although I haven’t seen the report on the news yet.  One of the producers told me to sit in the front and drink a glass of Mes (the local honey wine).  I said what the hell and did as told.  Maybe I’ll be on TV…

    The whole ceremony had a bit of a competitive theme.  It was Abi Adi versus Kola Tembien; think of it as town versus county.  Every time there was an Abi Adi act, there was a rebuttal from Kola Tembien.  I lost track of who was winning but enjoyed it all.  The most bizarre thing I saw was an act performed by an older woman.  She walked up to the stage and put her arm into her dress.  I had no idea what she was doing and then she started flapping her arm to make armpit fart noises.  She started simultaneously humming along to the beat set by the armpit farts to make a kind of one person rhythm section.  People were giggling, but I thought it was hilarious.  I’ve never seen anything like that here.  Apparently this is a type of “traditional music” from our region called hanbetit.  When I asked my friend about it later he told me that it is classical music comparable to that from a guitar or piano.  Now that’s a stretch for me.  Anyway the ceremony was great with lots of beautiful culture, dance, and music.

    Ashenda Day 2

    I prepared myself for the day by putting small bills in my easily accessible pockets and started wandering around town.  It took about 2 minutes for the first group of girls to spot me.  They rushed up to me and formed a circle around me.  One of them had a drum and they all clapped along to the beat while singing one of the traditional Ashenda songs.  I clapped along with them for a while and realized there was no way to get away from them.  They literally surround you!  I gave them some money, as is the custom, then they started singing their praises for me and let me move on, only to be faced by yet another group doing the same thing.

    The women and girls of Abi Adi form special groups to go solicit money from men around town.  They all get new outfits, headbands, hairstyles, and jewelry to “beautify” themselves.  They set out with a hand drum to collect some “donations.”  It’s pretty similar to trick or treating for Halloween in America.  Once they target you, there is really not much you can do to escape politely.  You must give them a donation.  If it’s enough, they’ll praise your name.  If it’s too little, they’ll make fun of you and call you cheap.  The amount you give depends on the size of the group, their age, and in my opinion, the quality of the performance.  Little girls get less than esteemed older women, of course.  The money used to be given to the Church but now most of the girls keep it for themselves, dividing the profits among the group.

    Along with the donations and singing, the local dance of Awers plays an important part in the Ashenda tradition.  Awers is a traditional dance that originated in Abi Adi and Tembien.  It involves a man and a woman.  The guy jumps around the girl and basically shows off while the girl responds to his lead and moves around him.  It’s a very stylized dance with a lot of variability, depending on the guy performing it, but there are certain moves and rhythms that everyone follows.  I’m getting better at it and learned a lot by watching so many different guys perform it over the last few days.

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