Behind the Scenes [analysis] (

When Laleo International Language Centre was established back in 2008, the owners aimed to give language trainings full time, but it only took a few months for them to add another service. They started providing language interpretation services for meetings in the same year when they realised the increasing number of international meetings in the capital and the limited number of interpreters in the market.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), established in 1958, and the African Union, established in 1963 as the Organization of African Union (OAU), are still key to conference tourism in Ethiopia. They have primarily been the venues for conferences that sought the help of interpreters, creating opportunities for those venturing into the business.
Laleo began giving services with nine in-house staff and other freelance interpreters in five languages including Amharic, English, French, Arabic and Portuguese. It added more interpreters from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union (AU), with each of them having 15 staff interpreters. Laleo also hires freelance interpreters from Kenya on an as-needed basis.
They give interpretation services mainly for NGOs, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summits and other meetings organised by professional associations, such as medical and economic associations.
Conference interpretation relies on a host of materials, including booths, earphones, mixers and microphones with technicians. Some of the interpretation businesses rent the electronic materials they need from ABC Trading, if the conference facilities are not equipped with them.
Sheraton Addis, Hilton Addis and Capital Hotel & Spa are among the hotels which have interpretation equipment for their meeting halls. In addition, conference halls of the AU and ECA are fully equipped with interpretation equipment. All of the hotels rent the equipment with and without the conference halls for the event organisers.
Sheraton charges six dollars for headphones and 200 dollars for a booth that can accommodate two interpreters at once. Hilton has a system of granting additional 50 headphones for those who use 500 and over. Capital rents the entire equipment including 30 microphones, 90 headphones and a booth for three interpreters, and a mixer for 200 dollars to 700 dollars per day, depending on the packages the customer uses, including accommodation and food.
“The package includes sound and light engineers who control the entire system,” says Besufikad Debaye, sales manager at Capital.
Others, such as Professional Simultaneous Interpretation & Translation Service (PSITS), a business established in 2008, use their own equipment. PSITS purchased mobile interpretation equipment, which it procured from a German Company named Bosch equipment, which can accommodate eight languages at a time.
PSITS interprets three local languages, including Oromiffa, Amharic and Somali languages, as well as seven international languages, including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Beyond the translation services, PSITS rents its equipment for conference hall owners and event organizers.
PSITS charges the UN 661 dollars per day for an interpreter; it charges the AU 485 dollars, according to Samuel Eyob, managing director of PSITS.
The above and other companies, however, face the challenge of adequate interpreters both in number and quality. PSITS brings interpreters for Arabic and Portuguese languages from Egypt, Mozambique and Kenya.
“Because of the unavailability of training centres in the country, we are spending foreign currency for the freelance interpreters we bring from outside of the country; we pay for their tickets and accommodations in addition to what we pay them for their services,” Samuel told Fortune.
Three interpreters could be assigned for one language which they handle by switching every 30 minutes, he says.
“The work needs care because the work is stressful and very difficult,” said Samuel.
A contract interpreter at the UN, who declined to be named, can be a good example of a part-time worker. He had taken interpretation training in the United Kingdom (UK) and joined the business in 2003 interpreting English to French for a meeting of the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA). Since then, he has been working at the AU and the UN in Spanish, French and English languages under contracts renewed every year. In his spare time, he works with event organisers including Flawless Events and Shebelle Ethiopia Conference Services when offered the opportunity.
He claims that following the increase of international meetings, universities in the country have not been able to expand their language department to include interpretation.
The demand for the interpreters during international meetings increased in recent years as the city has become a major destination for international missions. According to a June 2014 report by Fast Market Research, globally, Addis Abeba is situated in third position in the destination of diplomatic missions with 118 diplomatic missions, following Brussels with 185 and Washington with 176.
From the 24 to 30 events that Flawless organizes annually, 40pc are international meetings that need interpreters, said Yoadan Tilahun, managing director of Flawless Events, a leading event organizer in the town. In the past two years, the market demand for interpreters in meetings for English to French and vice versa has been high, Yoadan says. There are also some occasions and meetings which need other language interpreters including Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.
“The owners of the events give us two types of options to bring interpreters: they either ask us to collect pro forma invoice from the interpreters to hire by themselves or tell us their budget for the interpretation and we will bring interpreters for them, said Yohadan.
“The sector is not getting proper attention from the concerned bodies including the interpreters who are not training and updating themselves, the Minister of Culture & Tourism (MoCT) as well as from the Universities who do not have interpretation courses,” said Anemaw Anteneh (PhD), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University, department of linguistic and literature.
As the demand is increasing for the interpreters, universities should give special emphasis for the sector and should train interpreters in addition to translation courses they are giving, Anemaw suggests.
Source: Business