Sunday, December 20, 2009

Famine and High Tea in the Horn

I apologize for the long silence – the end of year season in our business is a busy one: between annual retreats in dignified resorts where HRI executives exchange strategic ideas over foie gras and end of year functions fueled by polite conversations about the troubles with the “domestic help”, there is little time left for trivial blogging.

One of the meetings I attended last week was in Addis Ababa where my stay in the dignified Sheraton Hotel was slightly spoiled by the vista behind the reassuring fence, where people in rags seemed in general to be enjoying slightly less comfort and for some mysterious reason - which I assumed was a cultural thing – were carrying around what looked like yellow cooking oil containers:

Thankfully, the local draught did not affect the water pressure at the fountain systems around the hotel where we took the edge off with regular dips in the heated pool, usually before high tea. The theme of the meeting was “Draught and Famine – HRI opportunities for 2010” but it was naturally also a welcome occasion to catch up with my trusty colleagues as well as with other dignified HRI consultants, who always stay at the Sheraton (the  Hilton nearby has lost much of its dignified air and remains unreasonably crowded). Around the white piano by the reception, we exchanged stories and anecdotes about various aspects of hardship that our lot are facing every day. We weren’t complaining though, as the draught has obviously helped with HRIs funding to “mitigate” famine with rigorous workshops and capacity building exercises, in close cooperation with the Ethiopian government, an excellent partner led by a visionary man.

Governments like Zenawi’s allow HRI to approach donors with a straight face blaming lack of results on the hopelessness of the government (in addition to the collateral offered by our friend bono), while making mates with the people in the government by sharing a knowing smirk over injera & St George about the unreasonableness and naivety of the lofty donors who have no understanding of the realities of the ground. Hey, at least no-one gets hand-grenaded on the streets of Addis Ababa, so there is some progress. Sure that doesn’t really apply to some people in the east of the country, but then they are terrorists anyways. Besides, a bit of conflict has never harmed HRI & associates – increased funding aside, hardship benefits are important for morale .   

And so, in 2010 HRI & affiliates will continue to maintain a strong presence all over the Horn of Africa, where the fortunate combination of geopolitics, history and climate makes sure that funding keeps flowing – a HRI best case scenario really, what with the availability of qualified help, pleasant climate in the highlands and safety for our expatriates, not to mention decent food and a reasonably well connected airport complete with direct flights to Rome where our discerning expatriate employees prefer to spend their hard earned R&Rs.


  1. the famine that is experimenting countries like Kenya, and Somalia really worried me. A lot of people is dying since a long time ago, and they could not do anything to fix it.

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