Spring Break in Ethiopia: The GMC That Changed Everything

In March, I traveled to Addis Ababa for Wharton’s Spring GMC to Ethiopia. I looked forward to my first trip to Africa. As an African-American, it was a trip to the “Motherland”. The class truly started when I stepped off the plane at Bole International Airport. No matter how much I read before I reached Addis, nothing prepared for me how life-changing that GMC would be.

We traveled to villages outside of Addis that were supported by USAID-funded health-care initiatives. Ethiopian girls as young as 16-years old were empowered to conduct routine and basic healthcare tasks that dramatically improved child and maternal health care outcomes. We also visited a local government-funded hospital with limited resources to treat even basic health-care needs. I was overcome when I saw a young woman in distressed labor. The labored breathing of premature infants weighed on me as I traversed the halls. As far as Ethiopian government healthcare has come, there is still so much more work to do.

Chinese investment in a major highway just outside of Addis allows for smooth travel from the traffic-prone streets of Addis to nearby villages and towns. Our class visited a private equity flower farm, Afriflora, about 3-hours from Addis. The farm has created jobs, built a hospital and a school. I question how devastating it would be to the community if that firm ever leaves.

We learned about incredible progress in entrepreneurship and innovation because of hubs like blueMoon. Ethiopian college graduates are equipped with access to WIFI and industry experts in their field of innovation. We were privileged to hear some of the student’s pitches, one of which won an international award.

We dined at some of the finest restaurants in and on the outskirts of the major city. We got stuck in traffic jams and made friendly conversation with each other on the buses. We enjoyed the warm weather that was a welcome contrast to the cooler Philadelphia weather that we left back home.

The GMC changed my short and long-term plans. I formed friendships that I’m sure will last a lifetime. I shared my desire to do more to empower the educated youth of Ethiopia with my classmates. They agreed to help me with whatever my final plan is. In May, I am attending the Ethiopia Partnerships Forum in D.C. to explore ways to teach entrepreneurship and innovation in Addis. Hopefully, I’ll be back in Addis before I know it.

About Eryn Ashlei Bailey, WG'20

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