The Ethiopian siege has sparked new innovation to self reliance in Tigray

Workshop meeting of the new Biotechnology Institute in Mekelle, Tigray in March 2022. Source Professor Kindeya Gebrehiwot

Tigray seems to have taken to heart the Greek philosopher Plato’s concept that “need will be the real creator” often translated to “necessity is the mother of invention”.  The over year long siege of Tigray by Ethiopia and Eritrea to strangle Tigray into submission has paradoxically sparked this movement. There is no doubt blockade has had major detrimental effects on the population but still their resilience and ingenuity may prove this Ethiopian strategy as one which only encourages the development of self reliance. Having suffered a long war with the Derg Regime in the past with little support the Tigray know that although external help is desperately needed to save lives to what extent when and how much it will come remains unclear.

There remains considerable engineering and technical expertise in Tigray which has allowed ongoing innovations although in a small scale in weapons production, power generation, and transportation.

Mekelle University has started a Biotechnology Institute to look at how innovation can be created to deal with improving health care. For example although some insulin is being supplied by aid flights from the World Health Organization this typically requires storage in cooled environments. Researchers in Tigray are examining the possibility of storage in buried containers which offer the same thing in mountainous areas which dominate much of the region.

Although internet and telephone from Ethiopia was stopped other sources of internet connection are being established which has allowed collaborative scientific efforts for example in analyzing the potential value of using wild and indigenous plants including fruit trees for food sources with promising results.

This month the AXM bitcoin is being introduced which will allow point to point internet transactions through block chain technology. This may play a role in allowing the Tigray economy to escape currency and banking control by Ethiopia.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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