The event that took place at Taya Belay Hotel’s conference hall on April 27th 2017 was a first of its kind in Gondar and more specifically in Ethiopia for that matter. The 3D printing era that we are in has taken hold of more advanced nations such as the United States and China, but is now leaning towards this horn of Africa nation. Distinguished guests from all over Ethiopia as well as the Kenyan Republic attended the Conference. Amongst those who attended were His Excellency Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuria Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST), science and technology partner organizations, delegates, the University of Gondar’s higher officials, faculty, staff and intrigued guests.
As the moderator completed her introduction of the event those who addressed the assembly were Dr. Hailemichael Demissie, associate Prof, school of law at the University of Gondar, Dr. Cosma Milton executive director of the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Prof Bitange Ndemo from the University of Nairobi who was Kenya’s former Minister of Information and Communication, the Mayor of Gondar Mr. Tekeba Tebabal, Dr. Asrat Astedewoin Academic Vice President of the University of Gondar and lastly the keynote H.E Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuria Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Dr. Hailemichael Dimissie welcoming speech stressed the willingness of the University of Gondar and Ethiopia more broadly to introduce new technology to the country bringing it out of the darkness. Dr. Hailemichael stated, “Its been a long time coming to bring forth 3D printing to the region. “Though we have come some way to bring such technology to the country” he states, “work has barley begun and the road is going to be a long one”. The idea of 3D technology is an innovative idea that will bring lots of opportunities to our growing country. The Dr. moreover persisted that we need to take “baby steps towards progress.”
The second speaker to enter the stage was representing the African Centre for technology Studies (ACTS) from Nairobi, Kenya. The official from ACTS briefly spoke of the impact 3D printing would have in Ethiopia. Since the leather industry is one of the greater exports of the country, the Dr. from Kenya alluded to harnessing leather industry through 3D printing. One of the more influential statements came when he said that, “Our continent needs to employ the new technology the same way African countries embraced the mobile phone.” Some companies that are using the new science to innovate and change their corporations are Boeing, Airbus and even Hewitt Packard (HP).
The moderator then introduced Prof. Nedemo former minister for Information and Communication. Africa needs a “fast development boom” he stressed that fast tracks technology. As Kenya’s former minister of information and communication he understood work needs to be done in infrastructure first to pave the way towards a progressive future.
The next individual who was introduced is no stranger to the impacts of technology in our daily lives. When Mr. Tekeba Tebabal came to the stage he brought the city of Gondar with him essentially because of his role in the community. He began by saying that the city of Gondar is very happy to host the event highlighting such technology as 3D printing. He connected Gondar’s present interests in such technology to Gondar’s historical past when King Tewodros fought to gain the patent to the cannon in the 19th century. He summed up by inviting all people to come to the events of the National City forum day in Gondar promising a good time.
Following the Mayor of Gondar, University of Gondar’s own academic vice president Dr. Asrat Astedewoin reiterated the need of advancement in technology for a growing country and economy. University of Gondar, the top rated university in the country is ready to grab hold of the technology that is producing such high quality materials that will help numerous sectors and institutions. The University of Gondar, Dr. Asrat states is the first university in the country to hold such a conference. Not only this, but, in essence it is the only higher institution to acquire these high-end printers for the purpose of advancement. The university has bought two 3D printers and is ready to purchase more to enforce its dominance in the sciences and technology field.
To conclude, the last speaking spot was designated for the opening speech. His Excellency Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuria Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia took to the stage confirming Ethiopia’s resilience and unwavering commitment to maintain scientific advancement to better the country. We can imagine how far technology has come in our own country his Excellency stated. “ We could remember a time when letters were sent on little boats and horseback to reach its intended receiver,” he says. And even in comparison to older technology we have come a long way. In 1975 the Super Computer which performs the same functions and has the same processing power of an I- Phone 4 was sold for 5,000,000 dollars. He says, “ This is the pace of technology and the prospect that are presented to us.” As he finishes he emphasized that 3D printing can produce car parts, organs for the body, and save lives by assisting in surgical operations. The prospect of this new technology is overwhelming and limitless and its usage in Ethiopia can only bring benefits.
As the opening speeches came to a close the guests were invited to have an exhibition of the new 3D printers. The new technology that this machine offers is nothing less than spectacular and is a game changer. 3D printing will revolutionize the way the world creates because of the interesting things it could make. The exhibition lasted a short duration until a short question and answer session commenced with Roy Ombatti (AB3D PLC) and audience members. One guest member asked, “If we want to build one of these printers what will be our challenge”. Roy simply replied we build 3D printers so it could be built by anyone. The creator of the 3D printer that was displayed in the exhibition, Roy wanted all the people in the audience to know that the printers were, “created for Africa in Africa.”
Summing up the event closing remarks were made highlighting the way forward in 3D printing and its eventual incorporation into our daily lives. The people who attended were satisfied and the future of the University of Gondar and the country seems to be moving in the right direction from their acceptance of the new technology. After a closing remark by Prof Mersha Chaine the University of Gondar’s Research and Community Service Vice President a special thanks was given to Dr. Hailemichael Demissie for his tireless efforts in organizing the successful event.
The University of Gondar the first University to purchase these printers and to organize a conference on behalf of them is well underway to become a hub of technology and science. With the addition of a new ICT building that will be completed and operational in the near future the way forward looks promising for UOG. Nevertheless, the acceptance of the 3D printers may take some time as all new technology must be understood and accepted nationwide. However from the overall atmosphere of the conference which took place on the 27th and 28th of April it is safe to say that 3D printing is here to stay.
By Samuel Malede| Public and International Relations Directorate