EthioPoint: Ethiopians Analysis | Research Articles

Abiy lamented about the country’s lack of project management competency in his first press release

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By Assegid Habtewold
I’ve not yet watched the Press Release (PR) Abiy gave this morning. However, I was given a short clip taken from the PR where he was talking about why mega projects are failing in Ethiopia. He is right on the money. He pinpointed the culprit- the country’s lack of capacity to implement the principles of Project Management.
This is not the first time he was lamenting about it. A couple of months ago, I remember Abiy talking to the business community where he emphasized the need to build the country’s project management capacity. Again, after three months, this is still a ‘deadly’ issue that took a fair amount of his time to explain. I feel him. The country must give it a priority and, most importantly, do something about it. 
As someone who has the PMP certification (Project Management Professional) from the globally recognized Project Management Institute (PMI) and a facilitator who conducts project management workshops to some government agencies and major corporations, I fully understand why this competency is very crucial to any organization or nation. My clients invest thousands of dollars not only to empower their project managers alone but also all team members and other stakeholders. It’s not enough just to have well equipped PMP holders and project managers at the top who understand the in and outs of project management. It also takes to introduce the principles of project management to all parties involved so that they may play their respective roles toward the success of the projects they are part of directly or indirectly.
The first place to tackle this challenge, nonetheless, is to increase the awareness of key stakeholders- especially politicians and decision makers- concerning the critical place of project management. It’s easy to come up with ambitious ideas and launching mega projects. 
Past governments had failed again and again for the same reason because they just had the ambition. They didn’t have the awareness about the critical roles project management principles play and the importance of building the capacity of the country in this regard. They were launching mega projects without making sure first whether the country has the capacity (the ability to initiate, implement, and monitor, and successfully complete projects). They also lacked the continuous commitment to give it their priority. The latter is very vital. Having the awareness and the capacity to initiate, implement, and successfully completing projects is never enough. The leadership’s commitment throughout the life cycles of these mega projects is imperative.
The good news is that, now, the new PM has the awareness and the political will. What is lacking is taking concrete steps to build the project management competency of the nation one step at a time. Otherwise, without strictly following Project Management principles to initiate, design, implement, monitor, evaluate, and successfully close the ongoing and future projects, the country will continue to suffer and waste its scarce resources. 
This is a serious gap and the nation cannot afford to continue to lack this project management capacity and experience continual setbacks. For that matter, the lack of this competency not only endangers resources as mega projects fail and drag their legs, the ongoing change cannot succeed and remain sustainable without the full understanding of Project Management Principles from top to bottom and without building the capability of key stakeholders who initiate, execute, monitor, and evaluate projects. 
What is more? The magnitude of the change the new administration intends to implement demands initiating and implementing many small, medium, and large projects within various sectors. Thus, this competency must be given a priority. And therefore, the new administration should begin investing in this desperately needed capacity as soon as possible…