Dibora Samson

It is quite hard to remember that roughly 3-months ago Addis used to host dozens of events in a multitude of themes every day. The booming sector saw thousands of young, passionate Ethiopians and expats joining the industry every month bringing the much-needed colorfulness to the city which prides itself as an African capital. This all came to a screeching halt since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Addis leaving thousands of event organizers in Addis at the crossroads, writes Dibora Samson.

Ever since the COVID 19 outbreak that led people to live under restrictions, the once-flourishing physical events have entirely evanesced from Addis. No one can tell when the pandemic will be over, meanwhile, event organizers who never saw this erratic time coming are fighting for survival.

Lubanja Events and Promotion was one of the event organizers known for its recurring music event, Enqfat, and other weekly DJ showcases. “Most people don’t realize how the entertainment industry hit by the pandemic.” Said Babkim, co-founder of Lubanja events. “We have invested in million to build our brand and it was a frustrating experience when the pandemic came out of the blue and shut down everything. It forced us to lay off our permanent employees,” explains DJ Babkim, Co-founder of Lubanja.

The entertainment and hospitality sectors have a vital contribution to the country’s economy. However the government doesn’t seem ready to loosen up restrictions, it neither took any actions to permit event organizers working in line with the restrictions yet.

“Since no one knows when the pandemic is going to be over, the government should create a means to let us get back on track adhering to the restrictions. People who depended entirely in the event industry to support themselves and their families are already hit hard, mentally and financially,” notes Babkim.

Melaku Belay, founder of Fendika Cultural Center, one of the prominent cultural centers in Addis, agrees with Babkim. The cultural center has been closed for the past three months due to the COVID 19 and has found itself in a difficult situation as it struggles to keep its staff intact.

A banner for one of Lubanja’s live-streamed events

“The Art is among the sectors hit hard by the pandemic, but I don’t think the concerned government authority understood art’s contribution for the economy, let alone helping the sector during tough times like this,” says Melaku.

According to Tewodros Derbew, Director of international tourism facilitation in the ministry of culture and tourism, COVID-19 novelty will likely turn into the new normal that everyone needs to cope with while the restrictions are still in the picture. Taking that into account, the government is conducting an impact analysis study on every tourism sector and drew recovery strategies.

“The Art is among the sectors hit hard by the pandemic, but I don’t think the concerned government authority understood art’s contribution for the economy, let alone helping the sector during tough times like this,” says Melaku.

“In the case of Events, different standards and protocols are designed under the recovery strategies by the government in collaboration with event organizers association on how to host safe physical events. The protocols will be applied as soon as the government is done with their evaluation.” Tewodros explains. “However we will have to make sure that whether the organizers are ready to fulfill the standards,” He adds.

While the pandemic makes it impossible to host physical events in town, event organizers are increasingly turning to online events live-streamed through various platforms. Though many of the organizers have not yet figured out how to forge a reasonable income out of such live streams, others like Melaku are using it as their lifeline. Despite the challenges, Melaku has managed to keep his 32 employees on payroll hosting live-streamed events online once a week and launching a GoFundMe account to raise funds from Fendika’s supporters worldwide.

Explaining the mission behind hosting Fendika’s shows online, Melaku explains, “Aside from the dancing showcases, we intended to support our artists to stay in the art. We also wanted to help our audience get out of depression enjoying the concert, and most importantly we wanted to keep promoting Ethiopia’s traditional art to the rest of the world. The online concerts had several foreign audiences across the globe that created an opportunity for my fellow dancers to be recognized worldwide and opened up future opportunities for them.”

Fendika has been live-streaming its shows worldwide keeping its staff intact.

 “Despite the COVID 19 pressures, we felt like we have to keep in touch with our audiences and started Staycation, a 2 hours weekly online live streaming show in a way to let our audiences know that we are there to entertain,” says Babkim, “The feedback we got from our audiences has been fantastic. We decided to stream the show from a club to give our audience the aura they have missed for a long time, and it somehow worked.”

On the other hand, the pandemic does not seemingly affect few hiking event organizers. They are still intact adhering to the physical distancing rule. Among the Hikers who are still organizing hiking events in unusual ways is the Addis Hiking group.

“When the Ministry of Health reported the first COVID-19 cases, we recommended the public to stay at home. However, we eventually thought people should hike with their families than staying idle in their houses. We created an app that assists them in showing routes to where to hike by themselves without our presence,” says Biniam Sherif from the Addis Hiking group, “We give hiking trails on the app. The app is also easy to use, and it can show them starting points and other details of their hiking destinations.”

As the relatively young but rapidly growing event industry in Ethiopia goes this ordeal, there might be differences in how event organizers approach the challenge, but they all agree that without immediate government intervention, this might be a blow dragging Addis’s creative, cultural scene a decade back.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. babylon

    Thank you for the Article Linup Addis.

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