The Federal Transport Authority’s decision to stop
issuing drivers licenses over the past seven months
has created a challenge for driving related
In the period from October 2008 to May 2009, driving
trainers and driving schools in the city were not
operating. Driving lessons, both theory and
practice, were suspended for three months by the
order of the city transportation office.
Alemayehu Tadesse is a young man who is suffering as
a result of this decision. Three months before the
Branch Office discontinued issuing drivers’
licenses, Alemayehu bought a car and started a
driver training business. He thought the business
was interesting and profitable. He was busy
training 10 to 15 students a day, making 400-600 Br
from the rental of his automobile and the 40 Br per
hour he charged for training.
For the past seven months, he spent most of his time
wondering about his decision to enter the business
as he waited idly in his Toyota DX by Addis Abeba
Stadium on Ras Mekonnen Street, the unofficial site
for practical training.
“When I just started the business it was
unexpectedly stopped,” Alemayehu told Fortune.
“I waited this long hoping it would start shortly,
but that didn’t happen.”
He had to wait for seven trying months with the
temptations of withdrawing from the business testing
his ardour for the job.
Like Alemayehu, many of the approximately 170,000
vehicles registered to be involved in the business
of training learners, have seen their business
halted during the seven months of the suspension.
Despite being in the business for six years, Girma
Mekonnen also went through the same experience as he
spent his days unoccupied for the period of the
This left Girma without his 450 Br monthly salary
for seven months.
The suspension, which was lifted this month, was due
to the decision made by the city’s Transport Branch
to transform the way final evaluations for driver’s
licenses are handled. Since the lifting of the
suspension Alemayehu has seen the revival of his
“The change is good but it was hard for me to go
through the seven months,” Girma said. “I have been
running around here and there just to make my daily
In addition to these practical trainers, there are
approximately 29 registered and licensed schools
with facilities for theoretical training, which have
been struggling to survive since the suspension.
The Skill Drivers’ License Training School, one of
the pioneer schools in the field, was established
five years ago with 120,000 Br capital. For the past
seven months of the suspension it has struggled to
“We used to pay our employees their monthly pay
without them coming in to the office,” Johnny Assefa,
general manager of the school, told Fortune.
“We did not want to lay them off because we thought
it might cost us more when the licensing resumes.”
The school has 10 employees, including the employees
in the administrative, finance and training
subdivisions, which cost the company 3,500 Br every
month. In addition, the school pays 15,000 Br for
The month before the suspension, the school had an
income of approximately 30,000 Br. With such a small
financial cushion, the school was greatly affected
by the three month shutdown.
The school had about 300 students when the
transportation office, headed by Tiblets Asgedom,
stopped the previous system of training in order to
develop a new system for training and examining
potential drivers. The office instructed the
training schools to discontinue registering new
students and to stop classes which were already in
Another training school found around Kazanchise area
in Kirkos District, was forced to shutdown one of
its branches in Piazza area due to lack of income
during the seven months it stayed inactive,
according to its management.
“There are people who come and ask for information
and tell us they will come back when the exams
begin,” the manager of the school told Fortune.
“We had more than 100 students in the Kazanchise
branch when school closed.”
The unexpected temporary stop has cost students
their time, money and energy. One of them is Helen
Esehtu, 25, who started class in October 2008, on
the exact day the discontinuation was announced.
At this moment, officials in charge of the licensing
at the transportation office are working on
finalizing the installation of the computer networks
for the practical examination control room. The
traffic complex, located in Kality, near the Kality
Ring Road Roundabout, along Debrezeit Road, is where
examiners watch and evaluate student drivers. The
office has already completed the initialization of
the 34 cameras which are meant to record how
individuals perform on the qualification test when
the trainees are driving on their own.
The 2008 Drivers’ Qualification Certification
License Proclamation requires that the learner be
able to drive alone during the qualification test in
the new system.
The Federal Transport Authority had awarded the
supply and installation of security cameras in the
complex to Global Computing Solutions Plc (GCS), a
local networking and network facilities supplier, in
October last year, for 4.5 million Br.
The cameras are now installed at places such as
starting points, end points, traffic lights in the
complex and parking areas. This is meant to enable
the five trained examiners to take good note of such
essential driving abilities.
“The primary objective of the new system is reducing
the corruption level by computerizing the system and
avoiding personal contact and involvement between
the examiners and trainees,” Kidanu Woldegebriel,
manager for Drivers’ Qualification, Follow-up and
Control Work Process at the Branch Office told
For the past three weeks, the theoretical
examinations have been restarted and businesses for
institutions like Skill have begun to slowly revive.
After the resumption, the school sent approximately
30 of its students to the first round test.
Despite the tough seven months they have been
through, the management of this school shares the
view among authorities at the branch office that
transformation undertaken during this period has
improved the evaluation system significantly.
The new system is good for trainees because it gets
rid of traffic accidents that come about due to the
inefficiency of drivers, according to Johnny.
“All the things within the process are computerized
and it is a good thing that it is clean from
corruption,” he said.
Theoretical exams under the new system have already
started while time tables for practical trainings
are being set. Helen, one of the first group of
trainees, has taken the theoretical exam. She has
been given an appointment for the practical
examination for tomorrow, June 1, 2009.
“My original practical exam was on Tuesday May 29,
but they only took a few people,” she said.
Although frustrated with the discontinuation and
change of plans, Helen now is relieved that she is
The need to stop the issuance of license and
classroom trainings came after the pilot
implementation, in the Branch Office of the infamous
Business Process Reengineering (BPR) study beginning
in January 2009, according to Kidanu.
It has, since then, worked on changing and revising
the system of issuing qualifications for drivers due
to alleged high level of corruption in the previous
process of conducting exams. Authorities in the
office believe that the former system allegedly
convenient for corruption has led to a higher number
of accidents because drivers are not well trained
According to the Transport Authority, 2,000 people
die every year due to traffic accidents and an
estimated 500 million Br worth property is damaged.
Currently, there are more than 10,000 people
registered and at different stages of the process of
acquiring drivers’ license. This number was
accumulated during the seven months suspension
period. With the capacity of licensing 800 to 1,000
individuals a month, the Branch Office plans to
complete licensing the people already on its list in
the coming eight to ten months.
The list also includes those who failed the exams in
the previous system, who want to improve their
driving skills, and those who did not finalize their
lessons, according to Kidanu, the man in charge of
making sure the proper implementation of the system.
In the old system, there were three levels, one
theoretical and two practical tests, that a person
needed to pass in order to receive their licence.
Hurdle and urban driving, each involving practical
tests - with Fiat 600 and Toyota DX cars - were the
common practices. In the new system the practical
part is only done with the latter.
The office has also set mandatory credit hours of
classroom theoretical trainings for all grades of
licenses. For example, the basic criterion to
qualify for first and second grade licenses in
accordance with the new system is 36.15 credit hours
theoretical and 25 hours practical trainings that
totally take 34 days.
The third, forth, fifth, sixth and special purpose
categories of licenses share the same 36.15 credit
hours theoretical training, while the practical are
23, 15, 12 and 20 hours, respectively. In that
order, the lesson should take 32, 24, 21 and 29
“Any person to who wants be eligible for vehicles
drivers’ qualification certification license shall
take an integrated theoretical and practical driving
trainings set by the authority; and pass the
examination given upon the completion of the
training,” reads an article in the 2008
The Branch Office has also revised the license
renewal period and requirement. One should go
through the necessary medical check ups when
requesting to renew qualification certification
license, as it is renamed now.
Another article the Proclamation for Drivers’
Qualification Certification License states that a
medical examination is needed for renewal of a
qualification certification license. The applicant
must be free of any physical disability or
unfavourable health conditions that could make one
unfit for the proper operation of a motor vehicle
“The physical fitness of applicants is supposed to
come from a medical institution assigned to
following the requirements set by the Transport
Authority or licensing body in consultation with the
Ministry of Health or Health Bureau,” states the
Even though individuals like Alemayehu and Girma
suffered loss and struggled for survival, they still
believe that it is a good system.
Alemayehu tried to diversify his business by working
as a contract driver for transporting children to
and from school during the seven months period
making a maximum of 500 Br per month.
Nonetheless, unfortunately for Girma, he did not
have an alternative source of income, causing him
months of frustration before he started to regain
hope when the suspension was lifted. Over the past
three weeks his business has slowly started to
return and schools and examinations have started, it
might mean Girma and Alemayehu are back in business.