Young Scientists

Mariamawit Yonathan Yeshak : "Returning was a personal satisfaction"

Leave Africa for Europe with a strong plan for a return already prepared is possible. Mariamawit Yonathan Yeshak had one. She accepted to go to Sweden from Ethiopia knowing her position will be available when she would come back.

Who are you?

My name is Mariamawit Yonathan Yeshak, I am from Ethiopia and I am an assistant professor of pharmacognosy at Addis Ababa University. Pharmacognosy means I study natural products for their chemistry and possible biological activities.

Why did you go to Europe for your PhD?

It was not a decision actually, it was a chance. My institute and Uppsala University got a bilateral grant from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the project had four PhD positions in it. I won one of the position, that is how my Sweden journey started.

Why did you choose to come back to Africa after your PhD?

I actually knew I was going back to Ethiopia when I set foot to Sweden but there are undeniably significant factors which have facilitated my return. The first one was a constant contact with my home university. I was visiting frequently, giving courses and doing project with my home university. And my position was granted. The second important factor was a seed money from Sida to start my own project when I got back to Addis Ababa. That really helped. And the third thing is, I had strong family ties back home. My husband was in Addis Ababa the whole time we were in Sweden me and my two daughters, expect from the occasional visits we had. This facilitated my return or my decision. But otherwise I knew I was coming back.

Did you experience any difficulties for your return?

Not really. From the Sweden side, they facilitated everything they could do to make my move swift. When I came back, my institute had my position already secured. Socially I didn’t have any problem to integrate back. So, no, it was a smooth return.

What would you say to young African PhD candidates who want to return to Africa?

Here I want to recite an advice given by one of my professors. He says by returning back, he is one of the big fish in a small pond, otherwise he would have been a small fish in a big pond. So returning back was a personal satisfaction of course. You will serve your country, and there is a satisfaction associated result. And beside you will be significant, your contributions will be significant, and you will be relevant beside, as there is a very shortage of educated human coming back to the continent, doing justice to our continent.

Interview by Anthony Audureau


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