Ethiopian factory transforms the workplace
With a population of 80 million, Ethiopia is Africas second most populous country. To meet demand for wider electricity supply, the government has opened a series of electrical equipment factories. This is the Tatek transformer factory, on the northwest edge of Addis AbabaInga Vesper
Major Assefa Yohannes is the general manager for Ethiopian Power Engineering Industry, a state-run company that runs seven equipment factories. The company was created in 2010 to reduce electricity hardware importsInga Vesper
In the factorys main hall, workers assemble parts into the transformer casings. Transformers are used to change the voltage of an electricity supplyInga Vesper
As a state company, the Tatek factory has a target to employ as many women as men. Women do much of the shaping and pressing work on the steel parts, which requires machine operation. Here, a steel plate is bent into a U-shape to hold cables in the final transformerInga Vesper
The raw body of the transformer is sprayed and prepared for wiring. The factory can produce 10,000 transformers a year. Before 2010, Ethiopia imported all its transformers from IndiaInga Vesper
Much of Tateks heavy machinery was imported from China, with computing equipment and fine mechanical equipment coming from from Europe and Japan. Here, a woman is operating a machine that cuts holes into the transformer steel casing for cablesInga Vesper
In Tateks second manufacturing hall, the spools for transformer coils are shaped and glued together. The factory uses local raw materials wherever possible, so the wood as well as much of the steel is sourced from within EthiopiaInga Vesper
The factory workers must ensure the wires in the transformer coils wrap evenly and do not overlapInga Vesper
The final wiring of the transformers inner section is done by hand. This is then welded into the transformer body, and three connectors are screwed to the top.Inga Vesper
The transformer is filled with oil, which acts as a coolant. These transformers are for outside use onlyInga Vesper
The transformers undergo safety tests before being shipped. According to Yohannes, the transformers Ethiopia imported from India were of such poor quality they would frequently explodeInga Vesper
The Tatek factory is expanding. At present, Ethiopia only needs around 3,000 transformers a year. But demand is growing, and the government hopes to export surplus produceInga Vesper
In this photo gallery, SciDev.Net visits the Tatek transformer factory near Addis Ababa, one of seven factories run by Ethiopian Power Engineering Industry, a state firm that manufactures power grid supplies and trains staff to maintain the grid.
The factory pays its employees about US$40-US$60 a month. By itself this is barely enough to survive, but there are rare benefits such as paid holiday and maternity leave. And the government provides affordable bus transport for staff, enabling them to take jobs further than walking distance from home.
Tatek aims to employ as many women as men, which challenges traditional gender roles and provides women with an independent income. However, Ethiopian societal norms require women to be main carers for children, so many stop working once they have a family.