Issues of concern




Last week we looked into issues that we are concerned about and whether we can have some influence in changing things around. Issues of concern include but are not limited to national and international politics, disasters and emergencies, terrorism, extremism and closer to home the costs of living, the education of our children, crime, our health, our jobs, the business etc. All are issues to be concerned about indeed but not everybody is in a position to influence them. There are issues within our so called circle of concern and there are issues within our smaller circle of influence. If your circle of concern is big and your circle of influence is small, chances are that your life and business are at the mercy of your external environment. Your situation is dictated by other people, circumstances and factors and you have a lot to worry about. The point is to realize how big your circle of concern and your circle of influence are in relation to each other and ask yourself what to do to enlarge your circle of influence to push towards your circle of concern. In other words, make up your mind about the issues that you are concerned about, decide whether or not you want to do something about it and subsequently work on enhancing your influence on the issue. If you come to the conclusion that an issue is not for you to have any influence over, it may be better to stop being concerned about it at all. Instead focus on what you can have a (growing) influence over: Our degrading environment for example and the subsequent loss of natural resources.
Now, last week I spent some time at Lake Langano, an area which I have visited many times over the years and which I like to think I know reasonably well. I was surprised by what I observed over the lake during my stay. There was a strong wind that lasted the entire time of my stay, day and night. Not a moment did the water become calm as it usually does. There were waves with white heads all over the lake, indicating a strength of Beaufort 5 or more. On the way back to Addis Abeba, I noticed that the wind continued all along the journey, even causing dust storms. What does this mean? Now, I am not a meteorologist, so I may well be wrong, but as far as I know winds are caused by differences in pressure and temperature over the surface of  land and water. Stronger differences create stronger winds. Could it be so that there are stronger differences these days than before? If so, why is this so? I suspect that it could have something to do with the continuous cutting of trees and deforestation. Where not long ago there were trees, providing shade and retaining groundwater, they continue to make way for crops, which do not hold soil after being harvested. As a result we remain with barren land, loose soils and higher surfaces temperatures during the day, which cool down fast during the evening. If this is so, and I stand to be corrected, then we may have to think about other, better ways to practice agriculture. Ways that are more environmental friendly, ways that take soil and water conservation into account, ways that are more sustainable in the end. Now, the environmental degradation that we thus observe is an issue of great concern indeed, but not an issue that we cannot have an influence over. There is sufficient expertise around to improve on methodologies and practices, especially when combined with supportive policies and awareness raising. If done well and consistently it may even influence issues related to global climate change.          
I am concerned about some other issues and developments that affect doing business in this country. Like work ethics for example. It seems to me that performance of many employees leaves much to be desired. Low output, reporting late for work and leaving early are common, while in many companies workers prefer to wait to do work until after regular working hours in order to be able to claim overtime.
Traffic continues to be an issue of great concern, especially when travelling out of town into the countryside, for work or for other reasons. There are always sights of recently happened accidents, many quite serious. Every time I am on the road, I face one or two situations that could have easily turned, mostly by careless behaviour of other road users, be it drivers or pedestrians.
Then there is the pollution we see all around us. We see it on the streets, in the country side, in streams and waters and in the air. We see pollution by domestic waste, industrial waste, traffic (again) and general negligence of the environment we live in.
I am also concerned about the infrastructure, which also includes matters related to ITC, and thus mobile networks and access to internet. While we may see some improvement in this sector, as long as other countries develop faster, the gap between us and them is only getting bigger.
I can continue to list more issues to be concerned about, like the rate at which our population grows, bureaucracy and corruption for example, but I will stop here. The reader may add his or her own issues of concern. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether there is anything we can do about them and turn issues of concern into issues of hope. We will look into that next week.