May 24, 2023

Society to Honor Geotechnical Engineering Specialist Alemayehu Teferra


The Ethiopian Geotechnical Society proudly honors his remarkable career and valuable contributions to the field.

Avatar: Ilyas Kifle
By Ilyas Kifle

Ilyas is a reporter at Addis Zeybe experienced in creative writing and content production.

Society to Honor Geotechnical Engineering Specialist Alemayehu Teferra

Renowned geotechnical engineering specialist, Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra, will be honored by the Ethiopian Geotechnical Society (EGS) during Ethiopia's first Geotech Workshop in 2023. The workshop, focused on contemporary site investigation practices and shoring design and construction, will feature esteemed speakers from the field. It is scheduled for May 25, 2023, at Gihon Hotel in Addis Ababa.

Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra, former President of Addis Ababa University, will serve as the keynote speaker, drawing upon his extensive expertise and decades of experience in the geotechnical engineering field—a civil engineering subspecialty.

Born and raised in the Bere Woreda region near the capital city, Alemayehu Teferra began his remarkable journey in geotechnical engineering. He graduated from Addis Ababa University in 1961 with a degree in Civil Engineering. Towards the end of his fourth year, Alemayehu was offered a scholarship by the government of Israel. Although hesitant to leave Ethiopia, he ultimately pursued the opportunity and joined the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. After gaining valuable experience as an assistant lecturer in Israel, he returned to his home country in 1965, eager to contribute to its development.

Upon his return, Alemayehu Teferra taught at the engineering college before eventually joining the Geology Department, College of Natural Sciences, Aka Arat Kilo. During this time, the dean—a supportive Israeli individual—encouraged Alemayehu to pursue a doctorate. Reflecting on his educational journey, Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra mentioned in a 2016 interview with the Ethiopian Herald newspaper that numerous scholarship opportunities were available.

He highlighted the ease with which students could travel abroad for further education, as there were no significant obstacles. Therefore, considering the dean's advice, he enrolled at a German university and obtained his doctorate from the Technical University of Aachen, West Germany.

In June 1967, Alemayehu Teferra married and traveled to Germany with his wife after receiving a scholarship from the German government. He attended German language classes for six months before enrolling as a doctoral student.

The contributions and achievements of Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra have left an indelible mark on the field of geotechnical engineering. As he takes the stage as the keynote speaker at the 2023 Geotech Workshop, his wealth of knowledge and experience will undoubtedly inspire and educate attendees, furthering the progress of the discipline. The Ethiopian Geotechnical Society proudly honors his remarkable career and valuable contributions to the field.

Tewodros Gemechu, geotechnical engineer and founding member of EGS, told Addis Zeybe, "Addis Ababa's soil map paper was never produced, but 50 years ago Alemayehu Teferra conducted a walkover survey, which involves walking around and randomly testing the soil."

"Whenever we try to work on new things, there are always some trials by Emeritus Professor Alemayehu earlier, which helped our projects," he added.

Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra is widely regarded as the father of geotechnical engineering practice and education in Ethiopia. He was elected to the executive board of UNESCO, representing East African countries, and served as the first elected president of Addis Ababa University. However, his presidency was interrupted by the university's closure and his subsequent imprisonment from 1993 to 2003. He was arrested due to his opposition to the government's infringement upon academic freedom and his refusal to allow the arrest of students.

After serving more than ten years in prison, Alemayehu was fully restored to the university in 2004 and worked diligently until retiring in 2016 with the honorific title of Emeritus Professor. He is the Chairman of the Working Group of Engineering and Technology of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences (EAS), a Founding Fellow of the EAS, and a member of the EAS Board.

During his time at the university and in prison, Professor Alemayehu authored four books and a reference manual in soil mechanics and foundation engineering, some of which are still used as textbooks for teaching. He has also published many peer-reviewed publications in national and international journals and has served as the thesis advisor for many M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses. Additionally, he was a committee member that adopted the Ethiopian building code.

In addition to receiving a medal and certification of recognition, the society will launch the 'Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra Lecture Series' next year as a tribute, where the professor himself will be the opening speaker. The lecture series will continue annually, featuring multiple expert speeches and panels.

Two years ago, a group of volunteer geotechnical experts, including Emeritus Professor Alemayehu Teferra and Tewodros Gemechu, dreamt of establishing an association that would contribute to quality construction in Ethiopia. Finally, the Ethiopian Geotechnical Society was officially certified in 2022.