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The passing of a pioneer

March 8, 2015 -- Dr. Taffara Degufe, Director General of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation and the first Manager of the State Bank of Ethiopia, passed away on March 6, 2015, at the age of 88 in Vancouver, Canada. He was instrumental for modernizing the operations of the banking system in Ethiopia. During his time in office, the State Bank of Ethiopia was split into two institutions. First, the National Bank of Ethiopia assumed the responsibility for central banking regulations and operations. Second, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia focused on commercial banking matters. Dr. Taffara was appointed as the General Manager of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. By 1974, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia had grown having over 100 branches, and became internationally recognized as the leading financial institution in the country. 

He became an active participant in many organizations and served as President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce, Honorary Treasurer of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Honorary Consul General of Norway, among others. He was and remained a dedicated Rotarian and has taken the time to attend rotary functions during his travels abroad. His expertise has also been sought by various associations and enterprises and he also served as the Chairman of the Ethio-Dutch Sugar Company and as the Financial Controller of the Franco- Ethiopian Railway Company.

During the political uprising upheavals in Ethiopia of l974, Dr. Taffara was appointed Governor of the National Bank. During the difficult transition that followed under the military government, he was arrested and put under political detention for five years and seven months. He left Ethiopia in 1982 and has lived in voluntary exile until his passing away. 

Over the past 20 years he returned several times to Ethiopia as a guest for the inauguration of private banks, anniversary celebrations, and international meetings. In 1996, he was invited to inaugurate the new Awash International Bank by its President, Ato Bulcha Demeksa. A year later, at the invitation of Ato Tekalign Gedamu, President of the Bank of Abyssinia, he inaugurated its new bank in Addis Ababa. In 1998, he was invited to inaugurate the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce. He has also participated in conferences organized by the Intra-Africa Group in Africa Hall and the United Nations Conference Centre. 

Dr. Taffara loves reading and collected an extensive library composed of books in Amharic, English, French, Italian, and Russian. In addition to contributing articles to trade and professional journals, he was a frequent speaker at international banking and economic forums. In 1959, he published an essay on Capital Formation in Ethiopia under the auspices the Addis Ababa University which received favourable reviews. He is also the author of three books, A Guide to Service - a collection of speeches; A Tripping Stone - an Ethiopian prison diary; and Minutes of an Ethiopian Century - recollections of his personal life history and key events in Ethiopia.

Dr. Taffara has been the recipient of many awards and decorations including the Medal of Grand Officer of the Order of Menelik, the Order of Merit of the French Republic, and the Medal of Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. In 1974, he was granted a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa by the University of British Columbia.

The most recent award he received was last year, on September 26, 2014 - the Bikila Award, Lifetime Achievement Award. Despite his health conditions, he traveled all the way from Vancouver to Toronto to receive the award personally. During the award ceremony his son and grand son were among the attendees. He received a very warm standing ovation by more than 300 people some of whom were close acquaintances of Dr. Taffara. He was humble and made memorable statements during his acceptance speech.

He will be missed greatly by all of us and those who knew him personally. His significant contributions to Ethiopian aviation and especially his dedication to the development and modernizing the banking system in Ethiopia will be remembered for generations to come.

By Bikila Award

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