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Ethiopian government offices have a fundamental problem of not treating people seeking service professionally.
Recently, I had to take care of a personal matter at a government office. As I was waiting in a long line for my turn I had a moment to think about the phrase “Ethiopians are hospitable”. Ethiopians warmly welcomed and sheltered Prophet Muhammad’s followers. This is an example of Ethiopian hospitality towards people in general without regards to the color of their skin and religion.
Given Ethiopia’s economic level, it is understandable if our government offices are not well equipped. Due to a lack of technological advancement, government institutions do not process tasks as effectively as they should. I believe that as we are all in the same boat we need to be more empathetic about the struggles people working in these offices face.
In order to settle my issue at this particular government office I had to go back and forth. During this time I questioned whether this hospitality extends amongst ourselves. Employees failed to provide sufficient information and treat their customers properly.
Customer’s frustration begins with an unwelcoming face and continues with the fact most of the officers do not act like it is their duty to be there, but as if they are doing the customer a favor. Most of the customers I observed took extra care to submit their files, however, due to negligence these dossiers are not organized in an easily accessible manner.
In addition to not handling the task at hand well, these officials do not seem to value to the customer’s time. Most government offices are constantly in “long meetings”, making it almost impossible to find the official responsible for carrying out the specific task the customer seeks. Due to various technical difficulties such as system failure, shut down of power/electricity the offices temporarily suspend their services. Rather than trying to compensate the time the customer has lost, these officers are seen taking even longer breaks.
Another problem encountered at these offices is the unnecessary waiting, due to lack of a structured system. Understandably queue management machines cannot be present in every government office due to financial issues. Even though, these technologies cannot be everywhere officials can manually create a structured system and prevent overcrowded waiting areas. The lack of hospitality at these offices, are not only attributed to the system of the government offices or their officials. While the root of frustration of the customer is understandable, it does not however justify the impatience of some customers. Often times customers push the buttons of the officials by unnecessary questions and constant nagging.
There are instances where a customer “knows/is friends” with the official, hence, gets better and faster service.
Some individuals seem to think that their problems/issues are “more important” than others, having this mentality they try to cut lines and put themselves before everyone else. By doing so, this creates anger among officials and customers, hence, hindering a smooth service process.
Having pointed out the negatives, one cannot go without giving credit to the individuals trying to change the system. Some government officials go beyond their job specification, filling in the gaps this system has created. Likewise, customers voluntarily try to make the system run more efficiently.
Our hospitality has to include each other. In most scenarios, the officials and the customers are Ethiopians, however, we lack patience and tolerance among one another.Given all of these challenges, if we are more tolerant, the system will be less flawed.
It’s easier said than done, but as most of our problems are within us, so are the solutions. We need to re-define the relationship we have with each other. We need to be cautious of what we leave behind for coming generations, regarding hospitality.

By Makeda Leikun