By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos
Addis Abeba – Industries in the war torn Tigray region are dusting off to return to production while some have already partially resumed operations following the peace deal that ended the two-year atrocious war between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) last November.
Messebo Cement Factory, one of the largest cement plants in the country is among the industries affected by the war and was forced to close for almost two years. Teame Kebede, deputy managing director of Messebo, told Addis Standard that the factory survived significant damages it encountered due to the war, and resumed operation at half of its capacity.
Teame said lack of foreign currency to replace the damaged spare parts is holding the factory from producing at full capacity, adding that “if these issues can be resolved quickly, we will be back at full capacity”.
Moha Soft Drinks Industry S.C, Mekelle branch and Raya Brewery which is a subsidiary of BGI Ethiopia among other industries have also announced resumption of operations after cessation the two years of hostilities.
But for the most part, factories in the Tigray region have been completely destroyed leaving thousands of their employees in despair. Among those completely destroyed are four subsidiary factories belonging to Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a leading conglomerate based in the region; they have been completely destroyed while some of their equipment lie in ruins as the reminder of the war.
A senior member of the management for EFFORT who asked not to be named told Addis Standard that Almeda Textile PLC, Saba Stone, Ezana Mining Development PLC, and Sheba Leather Industry PLC have been fully destroyed, adding that For the factories to be back to operations, complete reconstruction is required.
“All the machinery was robbed and buildings burned down. It requires a huge amount of budget to rebuild these factories,” he noted.
Established in 1995 with seed money contributed by the TPLF, EFFORT is one of the four endowment companies that are active in the national economy, and each owned by the four former EPRDF coalition parties.
Following the outbreak of the war in November 2020, the EFFORT subsidiary companies ceased operations, and there has been outrageous looting and destruction in most of the factories, some fully and others at partial levels.
Almeda Textile PLC, established in February 1996, allocated 86 million Birr for its expansion project seven years ago to increase production capacity by 100 percent with the expansion being focused mainly on replacing machinery with the latest products.
“If there would be any chance to come back from this situation and get my job back, I won’t hesitate”Maereg G/egziabher, former employee of Almeda textiles
The textile factory, also one of the biggest in the country, was based in Adwa employing over 5000, with women making up 70 percent of the workforce. Maereg G/egziabher, 58, a mother of two, has been working in the factory since its establishment for over two decades until two years ago when war broke out in Tigray. It has now been two years since she received her paycheck.
“Darkness falls, I was in despair not knowing what to do,” said Meareg. “I hardly managed my family.”
Maereg is among thousands of the factory’s employees who were struggling to make ends meet and were in a devastating state owing to hunger.
“If there would be any chance to come back from this situation and get my job back, I won’t hesitate,” said Meareg, who was living off of her old friends.
Aregawi Girmay, operations manager at Almeda textiles, told Addis Standard that thousands of employees’ futures have been put in jeopardy since the re-establishment of the factory will require huge investment.
He saw the factory bombed after the second-round war resumed in August 2022. The factory was first bombed in October 2021. The federal government claimed it was targeted for “manufacturing military uniforms resembling Ethiopian and Eritrean military uniforms.”
“Machinery and other materials have been robbed and the rest destroyed,” he said, noting that “the whereabouts of some of the employees are also unknown.”
Aregawi advises that the federal and regional governments must step in and take action in sustaining the workers’ lives.
Unlike Almeda which saw absolute destruction, some companies of EFFORT such as Mesfin Industrial Engineering, Trans Ethiopia, and Maichew Particleboard Manufacturing PLC, which were partially harmed by the war in Mekelle and its surroundings may soon resume production at half of their capacity.
Although the factories have lost over 400 million Birr in the last two years owing to the war, the senior member of management at EFFORT expressed hope that their resumption of businesses will help its employees get back on their feet and assist the region recover economically.
The region’s economy has experienced a significant disruption since the start of the catastrophic war, especially in the investment sectors, including infrastructure, manufacturing, and agriculture.
Although some factories can be readily rebuilt and put back into operation, most have been completely destroyed, according to Daniel Mekonen, Commissioner of the Tigray Investment and Export Commission.
The southern and Southeastern Tigray saw the largest agricultural investment, while in the Eastern region, investors grew sesame and millet covering over 160 hectares, which used to be among Ethiopia’s primary source of foreign currency and employment.
“Factories invested with huge capital were demolished by military forces including the Eritrean army and Fano,” said Daniel.
According to him an independent commission called “Tigray Genocide Commission” has been established to assess the amount of destruction on human and properties, including the macro and micro industries. AS