October 8, 2023
On Saturday, September 23, 2023, the much-anticipated 2023 Bikila Award Celebration and Gala Dinner graced the splendid venue of Daniels Spectrum in Toronto.
Distinguished guests and luminaries gathered to make this night an unforgettable experience. Hon. Dr. Jean Augustine, an iconic trailblazer and past member of the Canadian Parliament, captivated everyone with her presence. Renowned author and Africa’s trusted Political-Economic Analyst, Dr. Lawrence Freeman, shared invaluable insights.
The mission of Bikila Award is to foster academic, professional, and business excellence and promote volunteerism among persons of Ethiopian origin, primarily through award and recognition. Bikila Award is created mainly to empower young people to reach their highest potential and to celebrate their achievements.
Bikila Award realizes its mission by undertaking various relevant activities including but not limited to:
- Honoring students, professionals, businesspersons, and volunteers deserving recognition;
- Creating awards, scholarships, and bursaries;
- Organizing events to celebrate and communicate the achievements of community members as well as friends of Ethiopia.
For a recap of the Bikila Award Gala, click: Abebe Bikila Award Gala
The Bikila Award www.bikilaaward.org was conceived over a decade ago, officially founded in July 2013, and conducted its first Bikila Award celebration in 2014.
This year, the Bikila Award ceremony took on special significance, given the tensions that exist in Ethiopia, today. The accomplishments of Captain Abebe Bikila, who demonstrated unique qualities of courage and determination, are well known to Ethiopians. As a historical personage, he can also function as a unifying figure for all Ethiopians, across all ethnic boundaries. For this reason, we can say unequivocally, that those responsible for this year’s Bikila Award celebration are performing an invaluable service for their homeland, Ethiopia.
Both Abebe Bikila, and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, are national treasures that dwell in the hearts and minds of all Ethiopians and can serve to unite the culturally rich great nation of Ethiopia.
I had the honor and privilege of being the keynote speaker to over four hundred guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of Ethiopians.
Lawrence Freeman’s Presentation: We Live For the Future
I am honored and happy to be with you tonight.
Captain Abebe Bikila is known for his courage and determination to succeed, as demonstrated in his victory in the Olympic marathon in 1960 in Rome, Italy; without his shoes. I am a long distance hiker and backpacker on the mountains of the East Coast of the United States, hiking several hundred miles a year. However, I could not do it without a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
Our World Has Indelibly Changed
Over the course of the last month, the world has been transformed. Not instantly, but in potential. This emphatically includes changes for Ethiopia and Africa as well. Africa and the Global South are moving in a new direction that we have not seen for several decades. The call for a New Just Economic World Order, prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, has been taken up again in a new form.
Let Me Explain.
First, at the 15th Summit of the BRICS, from August 22nd to 24th, it was decided to add 6 additional nations to become new members in January of 2024. This has transformed political-economic relations among nations on our planet. The BRICS in its embryonic form creates a new potential for development, especially among what we call the Global South or the South-South nations. As a result, the world, implicitly our universe, will never be the same, and there’s no going back to the way it was before.
We witnessed just last week, at the Group of 77 plus China, meeting in Cuba, a continuation of this new direction by the Global South. These multi-polar institutions are committed to cooperating in the mission to develop their nations and provide a better quality of life for their citizens.
There is now an undeniable alternative emerging to the dominance of the Western institutions, with their perverted geopolitical zero-sum doctrine of only winners and losers. The old order no longer unilaterally controls the world with their so called, international rules-based order. Of special importance for Africa, two of the new BRICS members are: Egypt and Ethiopia.
The second major event occurred earlier this month, on the eve of the Ethiopian New Year. It is when the reservoir of water contained by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reached the level of 42 billion cubic meters of water in its fourth filling. This is a milestone for Ethiopia, for the Horn of Africa, and for the entire African continent. Over the course of the next two years the reservoir will reach the capacity to hold 74 billion cubic meters of water and 11 additional turbines will be installed. Thus, the GERD in 2025 will have, with 13 operating turbines, an installed capacity to generate 5,150 megawatts of power, yielding an estimated 16,000 MW hours of electricity. This changes everything for the people of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.
What I have identified are: new potentials for development of Ethiopia and Africa. This means there will be many new possibilities for families to improve the quality of life and raise their standard of living for themselves and their children. With this new injection of power from the GERD, more Ethiopians will have access to electricity. It will also enable manufacturing and agriculture to expand and allow Ethiopia’s economy to begin the path towards industrialization. Ethiopia’s GERD is already exporting electricity to neighboring nations and this will increase when the GERD is completed.
The GERD, like Abebe Bikila is a national unifying symbol for Ethiopia.
New Prospects For Ethiopia With BRICS and GERD
These new potentials will present a new geometry for Ethiopia. A developing, economically expanding nation will require more and more young people to apply themselves in advancing their economy to higher levels of productivity. To increase the productive powers of labor we require new scientific discoveries. New technologies created from these new discoveries will enable society to advance to a higher mode of economic production. This will place a premium on engineering and scientific research. The youth of Ethiopia will become an essential segment of the labor force, driving the development of their nation and securing a prosperous future for a growing population.
As a physical economist I understand that without the material improvement of life for the people of a nation, there will be no peace or stability. That said, the essence of a nation’s policy should be on the development of the minds of its population, especially its youth.
Only human beings are endowed with the potential of creativity. Creative thought is not reproducible by computers or so-called Artificial Intelligence. The human mind alone is capable of discovery, of hypothesizing and testing new physical principles of the universe. That means each mind of each human being is vital for a nation’s future. Each human being is sacred because it possesses a mind-soul. Contrary to the foolishness of pseudo economists, it is the human mind that is the source of all wealth for society.
The GERD for example, a marvelous engineering structure between two mountains, which I visited in December 2022, is a perfect example of humankind’s creative intervention on the physical universe.
Therefore, every nation should have a twofold interconnected policy for its citizens, which is:
To ensure an improving standard of living for the population, freeing its citizens from the daily insecurities of providing food, income, and housing. With the material necessities of life secured, the nurturing of the creative imagination of each child becomes society’s primary responsibility.
It Is All About The Future
Ethiopia with a 115 million people, and the African continent with its population of 1.5 billion (and growing), can have a bright future employing all these potentially creative minds in contributing to the betterment of society.
Human beings, unlike all other animals, are uniquely capable of thinking about the future. Animals only exist in the here and now. We human beings are fundamentally different. Although we physically live in the present, we act for the future.
Qualified leaders think one to two generations into the future with a vision for their nation. Mothers and fathers think about what actions they can take in their lifetimes that will contribute to a better future for their children and grandchildren. Competent economists and economic planners focus on investments in technological awakenments today that will result in an increase in the productivity of the society tomorrow.
The world is entering a new epoch. We can create a new paradigm with new multi-polar institutions committed to development. We now have a new potential future in front of us if we have the wisdom and willpower to realize it. Let us have the same determination to reach our objective for a better humanity, that Abebe Bikila had in winning the 1960 Olympic marathon.
Thank you for listening to me.
For a recap of the Bikila Award Gala, click: Abebe Bikila Award Gala
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com.