Sinknesh Ejigu: Minister of Mines

Mrs. Sinknesh is a joy to talk to and be with.

She is a person of great confidence and a leader that is worthy of her position at the helm of a very important economic sector that is expected to contribute to the development of Ethiopia mainly to GTP’s Export Revenue by 20% in the coming few years.  She says the challenges are many but mainly the nature of the business of Mines and its products is a long process with no shortcut of what so ever. Nonetheless, Sinknesh is not a woman of excuses; under her leadership and a great team effort, the mining industry is growing significantly with major involvement of the private sector.

The Ministry of Mines (MoM) is one of the Federal Ministries which is given the responsibility of the proper development of the mining sector. The role of the Ministry is mainly to generate the basic geosciences data of the country, to promote the mineral and petroleum potential, to negotiate and issue licenses to investors and to monitor their operations in accordance with their concession agreements. Geological studies show significant discoveries of gold, tantalum, phosphorus, iron, salt, potash, soda ash, gemstones, coal, geothermal, natural gas, other industrial and construction minerals/ rocks in different parts of the country.

Sinknesh Ejigu served in the leadership position for the past 16 years for the same ministry. She has been appointed as a minister since 2010. She sits on the board of EAL, EEPCo, Medawolabu University, and is also a Board Chair of Adamitulu Pesticides Processing S.Co. and Ethiopian Mineral Development S.Co. She holds a masters degree in analytical chemistry from the University of East Anglia, UK. She is married to her long time friend and lover and has two children; an engineer and a fifth year medical student.

Sinknesh grew up in a large household along with seven siblings. Growing up, she moved to different parts of the country as her father was in the military. She was the first born and had a sense of responsibility to achieve at an early age. She says her parents gave her love and opened up possibilities. She grew up thinking she can tackle what is on her plate and never felt she was different or any less than anyone, man or woman. She tells a story that one day while negotiating for a promotion she became a bit emotional. Her boss then reminded her that she is a woman. She liked the challenge and argued otherwise controlling her emotions. She got the promotion. She says overtime she learned how to control her emotions, to think strategically and ask for what she wants diplomatically.  She says it’s about power sharing and those who are less than willing to share power must be told otherwise and we need to show it through our work.

We asked, as she is a political appointee, whether her position is meritorious or affirmative action in play? Most people perhaps think it is favoritism but what does she say? As Sinknesh is a person who speaks her mind, she says she isn’t concerned about what others will say but her work that speaks for itself is the best indicator. However, she says she believes in affirmative action and that many women need and should get the support to be in the leadership positions; be it in schools, at homes or in offices. The dearth of women in leadership position must be remedied somehow. She feels women’s agenda is a global agenda; women, she asserts, are equalizers; they balance the community and we need more of them as leaders.

Where does her strength come from? Who is her role model? Sinknesh seems to be her own role model. She joined the university in 72/73 when it was chaotic period in Ethiopia. A year after she joined the university, the revolution started and the students were sent to the country side under the guise of working with the peasants. Sinknesh as thousands of youth of the time went through a great deal of hardship. She is a person who strives on challenges. She says that experience made her strong and she learned that she first had to stand on her own. She has to be strong for her in order to help others. She was an excellent student, very focused and by her account, odd! She ended up marrying a man whom she competed against in school for they were good and competitive students. But due to the hardship and chaos in the country, she couldn’t continue and was forced to quit school and went to work. But she set her mind on getting good education and went back to school as soon as possible for her.  She believes she is where she is today because of her strong educational background and focus on purpose. She is an expert in her field and a strong leader. She leads her life with a purpose and her purpose is to see this country prosper. Her purpose is to work to the best of her ability to support the nation’s economic agenda succeed.

What is leadership to her? Leadership, she says is developing others so they become tomorrow’s leaders. She is strong in delegation and supporting others realize their dreams. She says old days used to be about making yourself indispensable which is no such thing anyway. But she says that is passé and problematic to one’s own upward mobility. She says empowering others is freeing yourself to do what you want to do in life. So, help others because that is the only way to help yourself. Her leadership style is participatory and communicates openly and clearly; dialoguing is important, Sinknesh believes, to come to common understanding. She says unless you speak out nobody would be responsible for where you end up. So what’s her advice for all women young and not so young? She encourages all women to use all the resources available and improve their livelihood; to first think for themselves and make themselves strong. She says to live your life as you see fit and not to worry about what others say or do. She reminds all women, unless you stand up and articulate your wishes and desires, nobody will. She says to be good listeners and observers of your surroundings will help you strategize your moves, and not to shy away from getting what you want out of life.

Any circle of friends to share concerns and joys with? Because of her position and responsibilities, most of her confidants are her kids especially her daughter and her spouse. She enjoys music and movements (dancing) and she keeps herself healthy by subscribing to healthy eating and healthy living. She admits she works long hours, more than 12 hours a day but she likes and enjoys what she does. She admits she works long hours also because of other obligations and responsibilities such as sitting on several boards. She feels that way she contributes what she knows in leadership and businesses and she also learns from others by participating and contributing.  “It’s a win-win and don’t mind the long hours”.

How close are we to striking the black gold Madame Minister? Sinknesh says they are hopeful. Would it be a curse as witnessed in other nations in Africa when we do? No, she says, because we have learned from others and we use countries such as Norway as a benchmark and work so hard to be transparent and put the strategy for better utilization of our resources. It would be good for the nation and combined with other minerals, we will take Ethiopia to prosperity.

We salute this great leader of our nation and proud it’s a She. Sinknesh is a great role model to many young women of our nation and AWiB thanks her for sharing her story.

Our best wish to you, Madam Minister!

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