Mitikie Mengiste

Regional Finance and Controlling Advisor International Office Region Eastern and Southern Africa

Knock on the untouched door. Make a difference in your area of work.

Sometime in 2008, the SOS Children’s Villages International Office circulated information to all the National Offices about dealing with their banks and getting better benefits such as exchange rates, or asking their banks for exemption from charges. I was the finance controller at the time and started discussing the issues with the finance manager (FM). His response on the matter was not positive because he believed that the internal policy of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) would never allow any sort of concessions like those suggested by the International Office. So the case did not look encouraging.

Never ever give up
However, one Saturday morning I went to the CBE, specifically to the International Banking Department (IBD) and asked for an appointment to discuss this issue with the manager. After a week I met the manager and explained the causes, objectives and mission of SOS Children’s Villages Ethiopia and the International Office to him. I focussed specifically on what we do in the country and how we manage our work throughout the world. I explained how the funds come to the country and how our support for the children of Ethiopia requires this help for the long term. He gave me another appointment for further discussions.

As I have mentioned in my introduction, I have vowed to myself to “never ever give up”.
I went to the bank for the third time when the manager was with his deputy. I continued my explanations about SOS-Children’s Village Ethiopia. Some of their questions were about the amount of dollars coming into the country every year, others about what SOS wants from the CBE. I explained fully in answer to their questions and they were satisfied. I told them that SOS does what the government of Ethiopia ought to do and so the bank should support our organisation.

Pursuing the aim
After the explanations and detailed discussion that followed, I asked them to support SOS by at least exempting us from the commission charges on transferring USD into the local currency. They said, “Maybe we can look into the commission charges but we will not consider raising the exchange rate”. They did not go any further this time, closed the meeting and requested a letter with all the details of what I had told them in writing. The letter was to be signed by the SOS authorities and to be delivered the next week.

I presented the whole issue and the process I had gone through to the management team and the international project director. They asked me to draft the letter and try my best. Some of the management members said, “This is impossible, it is the CBE’s policy issue and that of the country. They will not grant your request”. However, I was determined to fight the case to the end.

Endurance demonstrated
After about two weeks, I checked back with the CBE. They said they had not yet discussed the issue due to lack of time. However, I never gave up. I visited them every week and checked if there was news for SOS. I think it was about five months later that I received a phone call from the International Banking Department. The team wanted to talk to me again. After many discussions, they arranged for a meeting with the vice president of the bank.  As usual, I explained to the higher officials there that, if SOS had to go to a private bank, CBE would be the looser and that SOS Children’s Villages would prefer to work with the government’s bank. I urged them to support SOS Children’s Villages and, in doing so, I reminded them that they would in fact be supporting their own children - Ethiopian children. They told me that whatever decision was made it would be communicated within two days.

Capturing the harvesting
Finally we received information that the CBE/IBD had decided to waive the commission charges on all conversion transactions from USD to LCY and the bank offered us a prime rate privilege for exchanging USD to LCY. This resulted in savings of over USD 120,000 annually for SOS Children’s Villages Ethiopia. Therefore, let us choose the right track and never ever give up, as long as it is for a good cause.

Mitikie Mengiste

is Advisor of Finance and Controlling, International Office Region Eastern and Southern Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has been working for SOS Children’s Villages Ethiopia since 1986.

Her personal motto is to never give up and always look for a positive outcome/solution. She sees changes as an opportunity for social, personal and professional development. She strives to contribute her best to SOS Children’s Villages.

Mitikie comes from a big family. Family is the foundation for bringing up children. Mitikie is always eager to learn and to contribute in social affairs such as women’s associations around her home. She strongly supports gender and child protection issues. 

Mitikie is proud of being from “The Land of Origins – Ethiopia” and the motherland of coffee. Ethiopia has its own unique history – it is the only African country that was not colonised and also supported other African countries to fight for their freedom. In the 1970s Ethiopia was affected by a very serious famine. At present, however, Ethiopia is moving forward with developments such as the construction of the great Ethiopian renaissance dam.