Alamu (27) is a hairdresser in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. In his salon, he welcomes customers for a haircut. He proudly shows us his business. Just a few years ago, his life was way different. Many of his friends emigrated to Saoudi-Arabia, hoping to find a better future there. Alamu was planning on going to Saoudi-Arabia too. There was only one problem: he would never see the children of his sister again. And they were the ones who needed him most.
He was born in Addis Abeba and life hasn’t been easy on him. Alamu: “Making ends meet is hard. Many of my friends had plans to move. They needed to, they were desperate. Even though the stories of people who already lived there were nothing but discouraging. Many of those who moved, hoped to be able to provide for their families by sending them the money they earned in Saoudi-Arabia. Unfortunately, that often doesn’t work out.” Often, migrants put their last savings into the journey, hoping for a somewhat brighter future.
Every year, approximately two million Ethiopian teenagers graduate, but only a small percentage of them finds a job that matches their skills. Employers ask for good and skilled employees, but most of the graduates do not have the particular skills employers are looking for. Many of these young people decide to leave. First, they move from the countryside to the capital. This city, Addis Abeba, functions as the bridge to Saoudi-Arabia and other countries. Alumu was born in Addis Abeba, but many of his peers just pass through this city.
Alamu stayed in the city, because of his sister’s children. They are completely dependent on him, since his sister has passed away. Yet, at one point Alamu was about to emigrate. He explains: “I had the choice between dying here or living somewhere else.” Around that time, a local partner of the Woord en Daad project ‘Employable Youth in Ethiopia’, offered him to go to school. They didn’t have to say that twice, because Alamu was more than happy with the possibility. He studied to be a hairdresser and on top of that, he took a course in economics. This provided him with enough knowledge to start his own business.
A healthy business
Alamu started out with used equipment. About one and a half year ago, he was able to buy some additional, new items, like a good hair dryer. Alamu: “Before, I constantly had financial worries. Now I have a business, and I’m able to take care of my sister’s children.” There is a sign of gratification in his voice. “Initially, I wanted to leave, but now I want to take my responsibilities here.”