Hundreds attend funeral of legendary Ethiopian Banker Dr. Taffara Deguefe in Vancouver, British Columbia

March 11, 2015

legendary Ethiopian Banker Dr. Taffara Deguefe

Dr. Taffara Deguefe’s Biography

During the revolutionary upheavals in Ethiopia of 1974, 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 ever since.

Dr. Taffara Deguefe’s funeral prayer ceremony
Dr. Taffara Deguefe’s funeral prayer ceremony
From 1982 to 1994, he worked as a financial adviser and banking consultant in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. He retired to Vancouver in 1994 at the age of 68.

Over the last 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 at the in Africa Hall or the U.N. Conference Centre.

Dr. Taffara Deguefe’s burial
Dr. Taffara Deguefe’s burial
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 College 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 key events in Ethiopia and a life of service.

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.

Dr. Taffara Deguefe was born in the hamlet of Genda-Wuha, Ankober district, Northern Shoa, Ethiopia on June 15, 1926. His father was a peasant who owned a modest farm with a few cattle and sheep. At the age of seven, Taffara was sent to Addis Ababa to start his schooling with a priest. In 1934, he was enrolled in I’Alliance Francaise and thus began the first step towards a modern day education. He was a good student but due to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 his studies were interrupted. The school was closed and his experience with elementary schooling ended.

During the following five years of the Italian occupation, he lived in the Ddrosdovsky-Dabbert household working as an errand boy and play-mate of their son, Olik. He discovered he had an ear for languages and learned to speak and gradually read both Russian and Italian.

With the return of Emperor Haile Selassie on May 5, 1941, Ethiopian institutions and schools began to be established. On March 1, 1944, at the age of 18, Taffara began his first job as a filing clerk with the State Bank of Ethiopia. As sometimes occurs in life, this opportunity was as a catalyst for a number of rapid and major changes.

With the approval of the Emperor, in 1945, the Governor of the State Bank organized a program to send eleven young employees abroad for education and training and Taffara was selected as one of the trainees. As a first step, he and his companions were sent to the Haile Selassie I Secondary School in Kotobe to supplement their sketchy education. Taffara was then sent to Canada to pursue his studies.

In 1946, as a lad of 20, he arrived in Calgary, Alberta to study accounting and secretarial courses at the Garbutt Business College. After obtaining commercial diplomas in one year, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Commerce. He applied himself to law at both UBC and at the University of
Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor before returning to the State Bank of Ethiopia as an attorney in 1952. He maintained his study and in 1955 he took his diploma in law from University College of Addis Ababa.

In 1955, the Emperor appointed Taffara Director General of Civil Aviation. This was a time of great change for the airline industry in Ethiopia and world-wide and he had to deal with the challenges faced by any emerging national carrier. These included expanding the activities of the national airline outside Ethiopia, converting grass fields to serve as small airports in the towns of Gore, Debre Marcos, and Motta, and designing and delivering training programs for both Ethiopian Airlines and Civil Aviation.

In 1958, Taffara was appointed manager of the newly created branch of the State Bank of Ethiopia, in Khartoum. The immediate priority was to establish operations and become competitive with the objective of supporting the expansion of trade between Ethiopia and the Sudan. In 1961, he was promoted to the position of Manager of the State Bank of Ethiopia – the first Ethiopian to hold this position. Given the need for reform aimed at modernizing the operations of the banking system, the State Bank of Ethiopia was split into two institutions. The first, the National Bank of Ethiopia assumed the responsibility for central banking regulations and operations. The second, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, focused on commercial banking matters. Taffara was appointed the chief executive of the Commercial Bank. By 1974, the bank had grown to a total of 100 branches and was internationally recognized as the leading financial institution in the country.

As with the world over, the decade of the 1960s was hectic time and full of change. Taffara’s life experiences had instilled the importance of participating in civil society. 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, amongst others. He was and remains 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.

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