Ethiopia: Equal opportunities for refugees and host communities

In Ethiopia, vocational training projects available to refugees and Ethiopian nationals alike help to improve employment prospects. These inclusive programmes teach skills such as woodworking, cooking and mechanics. 

At the Nefas Silk Polytechnic College, cooking classes aid integration between refugee and local communities. “We learn about the language, culture and way of life from our classmates,” said Hanan, a refugee in Addis Ababa, who attends the vocational training. 

Highlighting the importance of providing the same opportunities for refugees and nationals, Dean Melese Yigzaw said, “the aim of this integrated training is employment. We don’t have special treatment for the refugees…we treat them as citizens”. 

Yigzaw stressed that allowing refugees to work is key for them to thrive while they are in exile and also to contribute to the economy of their own countries when it is safe for them to return.

“If someone is skilled and can change the gears of a vehicle or cook, they can generate income. If you train them, they can create jobs wherever they go, even when they return to their home,” Yizgaw said.

“Nefas Silk Vocational College is an example of how the inclusion of refugees in the vocational training system of Ethiopia can work,” said Tobias Erbert, Programme Coordinator at GIZ, the German development agency implementing the project.

The programme at Nefas Silk Vocational College is part of the Qualifications and Employment Perspectives for Refugees and Host Communities Programme (QEP), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

Ethiopia currently hosts more than 900,000 refugees, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. Hosting the second-largest refugee population in Africa, Ethiopia has been following a 10-year comprehensive approach to the refugee situation. 

The strategy attempts to ease the burden for host communities by increasing refugee self-reliance and increasing opportunities for resettlement. The Ethiopian government is working with several UN agencies, the EU and other partners to boost local economies and increase integration as well. 

In 2019, the country managed to enact a new refugee law, which the UN called the most progressive refugee policy in the world. The new law gives refugees the right to obtain work permits, access primary education, legally register births and marriages and access financial services, such as banking.

TMP 15/11/2019

Photo credit: German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Photo caption: Ethiopia is working to help refugees support themselves, encourage peaceful co-existence with local communities and include refugees in development plans