By BEREKET DIRIBA, Correspondent JUNE 11, 2015
Africa’s fastest growing city Addis Ababa is to host its first-ever annual design and innovation event in December.
The week-long event will take place between December 7 and 13, and is expected to highlight the emerging fashion, design and innovative industries in the country.
Event organizer Metasebiya Yoseph, a Georgetown University graduate & founder of Gallery 26, believes there is enormous opportunity for design and fashion in Ethiopia. She has worked with the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and helped in raising money with the UNESCO to conserve Ethiopia’s historical heritages.
She says the country has an untapped potential and yearns for an opportunity to flourish — a conviction that later on led her and other Ethiopians in the industry to come up with the idea of a citywide design festival.
“I hope the Design Week will serve as a catalyst to push Addis Ababa forward as a hub for innovation and design in Africa; to foster a desire to celebrate local innovations and innovators,” Yoseph said.
A variety of design and innovation works are expected to be featured with a series of showcases, lectures, exhibitions and live performances.
Yoseph and her partners mainly hope to promote local innovators and designers by creating opportunities for them to meet entrepreneurs and businesspeople from around the world.
Dawit Lemma, an aviation expert who studied aeronautical engineering and flight technology at Purdue University, considers the event to be an avant-garde platform for Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians to engage with the deep-rooted cultural, technological and historical innovations of Ethiopia.
Though the country’s fashion industry remained at its lowest ebb, there are now upcoming designers and innovators in a variety of fields. These new entrepreneurs however, lack opportunities to develop their skills and display their works — a handicap event organizers intend to solve.
“The Design Week event provides a much needed platform for showcasing local Ethiopian ingenuity and artistry to the world,” said Hellen Kassa, an Ethiopian filmmaker and also one of the event’s organizers who aspires to create market linkages for both emerging and established artists and designers through the event.
Ethiopian diaspora entrepreneurs and designers are also to take part in the event, although the primary targets are the local young designers, who are expected to reveal their potentials during the events.
“There are some diaspora designers and entrepreneurs, but we are also focusing on providing a platform for the next generation of designers, including fresh graduates from local universities” Yoseph said.
Nejat Abdella, the co-founder of Qino, a creative knowledge hub, and one of the organizers, sees the importance of the Design Week as a means of promoting cultural development and creating an environment of respect and reciprocity of ideas.
Leading technology companies are expected to take part in the event where they will showcase their cutting-edge technology products to consumers in a variety of fields including industrial design, architecture, fashion & textiles, food preparation and the arts.
The citywide festival, which is expected to attract around 150,000 people, will be held in galleries, showrooms, cultural institutions, hotels & restaurants, and at 15 active spaces throughout the city.