Ethiopia on the Right Track of Renaissance
By Melaku Moreda
Tigrai Online, February 20, 2015
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is over 42 percent completed and construction continues 24 hours none stop.
Alemnesh Tesfaye is a middle-aged woman living in Gulele sub-city of Addis Ababa with her husband and three children. She has wrinkled face clawed with aging process, may be due to the repercussion of hard work mellowed by insurmountable spirit.
She said putting enough food on the table to the whole family and paying school fees to children was cumbersome and worrisome to her and her husband who are were engaged in drudgery and donkey work. She was used to earn her living from sale of fire wood, collected from wind-fallen leaves and dry boughs of Entoto forest, adjoining the road traversing from Addis Ababa to Gonder, Gojam.
According to her, her husband, Ato Worku was also a laborer whose meager income could not cast out the specter of hunger hovering on empty plates awaiting the whole family back at home, after along and grueling day’s work.
She remembered the epiphany came when she and her friends get organized and obtain a loan of 50,000 Birr to start petty business activity. The seed-money helped them launch home economics and sell of eatables sufficient enough to cover her monthly expenses.
Beside Alemnesh, her husband has also managed to obtain his livelihood from cobble stone road construction and support his family. He said the water shed moment comes to their family when the city administration summoned them and heralded about potential income generation activities including cobble stone road construction.
Development is measured using multi-dimensional indicators and the way countries interpret development is different according to their existing situation.
Some say, though it enabled to register amazing results in their country, the liberal ideology of the western world could not be fit to the existing economic situation of Africa. If it was designed to transform the economy of Africa, the liberal ideology of the western world could have brought successful results in as it has been implemented in Africa since its inception. Unfortunately, the current reality in Africa is far different from this.
Indeed, it has been witnessed that the way tailored by liberal western economists could not bring profound changes to the economies of African countries, except heaping up billions of dollars of debt and widening imbalance between the import and export activities, which relays on export of agricultural produce and import of industrial produce.
Numerous reasons are being forwarded to the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of African economic development while implementing liberal polices strait-jacketed by westerners. For one thing, Africa’s democracy is at its budding stage, which in turn could not spur Anglo-American type of development. In addition, development of infrastructure is also at its earliest stage. The cumulative impact of these things have shackled Africa not to industrialize its economy and become incompetent to penetrate deep in to the global market.
When it comes to Ethiopia, the development trend opted by the country and the current development situation is paradoxical when viewed from other countries that are implementing western-style development, which indeed has forced the development of Africa to lag behind since 1960s and 1970s. As a testimony, most of the African countries have been made to be glued to supply of raw materials to the developed world and no trend of industrialization since then.
Paradoxically, the self-styled development trend of Ethiopia has managed to defy the influence of western institutions, like IMF and WB (and western countries themselves) and put in place strong democratic state based on the consent of its people. This has enabled the country to establish lasting peace that enabled to register double-digit economic growth.
These days nation is dubbed as the African tiger’ leaping towards middle income level in a fast stride. This breakthrough achievement recorded against poverty is indeed very much contravening with its previous image tarnished by famine and poverty.
In sharp contrast with that devastating poverty, Ethiopia is now widely considered to be one of the African leading economies, It has so far formulated and started to implement ambitious plans to become a middle-income country by 2025. Ethiopia has, like the proverbial phoenix, managed to rise from the ashes to become Africa’s fastest-growing non-energy-driven economy”, a senior tax adviser at KPMG Kenya noted.
The mesmerizing economic transformation being observed in Ethiopia has been effected by the prevalence of relative peace and stability for over the past two decades, which in turn has burgeoned Ethiopia’s regional diplomatic influence.
This has been buttressed by nation’s allocation of more than 60% of the national budget to sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, education and health, that favor poorer people(due to formulation and implementation of pro-poor policies and strategies, unlike Derg that used to spend most of the content of national coffers on the purchase of armaments).
The changes that have taken place in Ethiopia since the advent of EPRDF are commendable. There is consensus that Ethiopia has registered ground-breaking economic growth in the past decade. The growth amounts to at least initial double-digit.
The reason for the country’s progress is its growing resilience and resistance to drought with time, through a mechanism of boosting agricultural productivity and implementation of safety net programs to farmers who cannot stand by themselves (a greater capacity to cope with drought and prevention of descent into famine conditions that have occurred in the past).
To date Ethiopia has harvested over 250 million quintals of produce which is far incomparable to 50 million quintals of produce that was collected two decades ago, which is unseen in the history of Ethiopia. Government strongly believes that the image of the country will be boosted when Ethiopia halts receiving wheat aid, being reliant on its productivity.
Similarly, farmers have started to produce cash crops and exportable produce. They have also started to undertake huge environmental conservation activities that are helping rehabilitate degraded ecology and support revival of dried rivers and streams.
Currently, dependency of farmers on rain fall is declining. Accordingly, farmers have started to divert rivers to irrigate their farm land and produce vegetable and crops three times a year.
This productivity has helped to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to towns and burgeon the income of farmers. This activity is showcasing that indeed the rebirth of the country has been started to be realized in the rural areas.
The development of the country has enabled to lift millions of people out of the mire of grinding poverty. The development being recorded has become multi-pronged that covers range of activities, be it agriculture, construction of infrastructure or social services like education, health and tourism.
This development endeavor is also praised internationally for meeting some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly boosting universal accessibility of primary school education and expansion of health facilities and services. Especially, sizable reduction has been seen in the number of infant and maternal mortality. This big achievement has won plaudits at home and abroad.
The country is exerting utmost effort to fully implement its health policy that has enshrined prevention as its core issue and further curtail death of infants and mothers by assigning health assistants at a village level and building health stations in every corner.
The willing interference of government in the areas of investment where no private investors dare go there is the driving engine of growth for the country. This stark reality can be witnessed by the nation-wide nexus of roads and expansion of basic social services, including the energy sector.
In connection to this, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), an impressive, self-funded hydropower project is among the number one mega projects that are heralding the country’s rebirth. Currently, over 42% of the construction has been finalized and it will be the continent’s largest upon its completion in 2017.
Construction of the GERD was started in April, 2011. Up on completion, the dam will have a height of 155m.It is targeted to store 74 billion m3 water and generate 6,000 MW. Above all, up on finalization, the dam is expected to contribute its own to break the vicious circle of famine and curb the effect of poverty. The dam will also help scale up the level of national water security from 43m3 to 925m3.
Parallel to its benefit at home, the dam is thought to reduce the expense allocated to clear siltation in Egypt and Sudan. The amount of debris deposited in same countries is estimated at 110 million tons annually, of which 40 percent is fine silt, 30 percent fine sand and 30 percent clay. Hence, according to ISS: 2008, dams being constructed in Ethiopia can prevent siltation causing considerable damage in Egypt and Sudan (control run-off that will cripple their dams).
Besides, energy supply that would be available from building dams in Ethiopia would be so huge that alone Ethiopia would not have absorptive capacity. The dam would not only produce enough energy for Ethiopia and Sudan, but also it could feed in to Egypt’s power grid for sale to users all the way to middle east and Europe. Hence, it could serve as cord of regional integration through the provision of cheap power.
Ethiopia is interested to forge regional integration which is assisted by infrastructure development in the areas of surface transport, electrification, rail way and aviation. A case in point, Ethiopia has connected its power grid with Djibouti. And this sale of electricity has brought amicable relation with the people and governments of the two countries.
Similarly, construction of Moyale-Nairobi high-way is well in progress. This link is expected to accelerate people to people and trade relation between Ethiopia and Kenya. The GERD is also expected to export electricity with affordable price as far as Cairo and further strengthen relation throughout the Horn.
Changes are also visible in the areas of trade and investment as Ethiopia is becoming a popular destination for foreign investors including Turkish and Chinese. Currently, the country is attracting a lot of foreign direct investment (FDI) from more countries..
Following the boom in the economy, the county has managed to diversify export items. Currently, Ethiopia has become a major shipper of cut flowers, oil seeds, gold and, increasingly, textiles and leather products. The government has also urged and incentivized investors to produce value-added goods at home and export it. This initiation has enabled to add some value in the production line of shoe production, textile processing, floriculture and manufacturing activities in general, which in turn helps enhance foreign currency earning capacity of the country far better than the previous.
The right track of development being followed by the government has enabled to achieve record development commended by the international community. To effect more development, nation has favored to imitate best experiences from Korea and Taiwan that have managed to build strong economy starting from a scratch.
Their history showed that both countries are not endowed with ample natural resources and their only sources of growth have been proper use of trained human power. And Ethiopia wants to travel same way and repeat their success.
Years ago, before they gain miraculous economic success, the economic development level of Taiwan and Korea was similar with the current situation of African countries. Accordingly, the style of development they followed and the means used to achieve their success have made them a beacon of development and inspiration for many African countries including Ethiopia. Especially, Ethiopia has imitated their model of development, which has started to produce tangible fruits.
Both countries have registered fast-track development within 30 years, eradicate abominable poverty and enabled their people to enjoy higher income and decent living condition(government interventions in Taiwan and Korea in some selected areas of economic activity has enabled to speed up economic growth and benefit people).
Despite imitating Taiwanese and Korean best experiences of development, the actual situation of Ethiopia is different from both countries, and it has been a must to implement (workable) suitable policies and strategies that can effect vying development in the near future as the country is striving to achieve middle-income level of development until 2025.
Though the previous journey of Taiwan and Korea has entailed oppression and mal-governance, it is illogical to prevail injustice and inequality for the sake of speeding up development (though unprecedented for injustice to enhance development). But, It is convincing that development must be implemented based on the consent of people, as development is effected by people for their own benefit.
Imbibing best experiences from the countries mentioned a fore and adopting it with the real development need of Ethiopia has enabled to register double-digit economic growth that has stunned the entire world.
Similarly, Ethiopia’s foreign policy is the reflection of our domestic, peace, security, good governance and democracy. The implementation of federal system of administration has enabled to root out inequality and oppression established by the previous regimes and replace the spirit of peaceful-coexistence, mutual-respect and equality.
This in turn has helped Ethiopia to alleviate poverty at home and win and recognition in the arena of international diplomacy. Similarly, national diplomacy, which is based on economic diplomacy, has enabled Ethiopia to contribute its own effort being exerted to ensure peace and security in the east Africa region as a whole.
The Addis Ababa light train is completed and it was recently inaugurated.
The relative peace prevailing in the country has also enhanced the capacity of the country to contribute its own to the peace-keeping mission being conducted in Africa in general and the Horn of Africa in particular( the newly born Sudan and Somalia).
Ethiopia is the second home of refugees in the horn of Africa. Currently, it has become the single most country below Sahara that has received the highest number of refugees. This generosity and hospitality has won appraisal from the UNHCR. Until to date over 600,000 refugees have made their way to Ethiopia from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.
In this regard, Lately Irish President have said that Ethiopia should be lauded for hosting refugees from neighboring countries. This granting of asylum to refugees is really contravening with the situation of the country two decades ago (it was in quandary affected by protracted war and famine).
Besides, Ethiopian defense force has also won admiration as a result of its capability to carry out its duty even in challenging situations. Namely, the army has accomplished its mission successfully in Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Liberia, Darfur and Abiye region of Sudan. The army has been carrying out infrastructure construction in these countries parallel to its mission and it was thanked by people in these countries. Indeed the reflection of strong government and people that backs the activities of the army as a vanguard.
Over all the country’s development is striding in an encouraging manner, be it agriculture, industry or import-export. So far, it has enabled to create millions of jobs through private investment and government-initiated mega projects like roads, sugar factories, the construction of condominium and hydro electric projects, including the GERD. Especially, millions of jobs have been created through small and micro enterprises (petty businesses engaged in production of garment and textile, cooking and cobble-stone road construction, among others) which are benefiting from the various assistances including loan, training and technical assistance.
Accordingly, the development is expected to go ahead in an amazing scale and lift millions from the quagmire of indigence and rebrand the image of Ethiopia as a vibrant and reliable nation.
People and the government of Ethiopia are committed to secure the peace and order of the country and clamp down on anti-peace elements that are interested to wreck havoc on the gains of Ethiopia. The country has built solid foundation of peace and democracy that has started to be witnessed with ever growing double-digit economy.
To this end, the government is dedicatedly spearheading giant projects which are well underway in every aspect, be it in sugar, cement, railway or hydro electric generation. Seeing light at the end of the tunnel, people and the government do not take the current achievement as an end or a big triumph either, but more effort to achieve a lot and emancipate nation from the shackle of poverty , which has embarrassingly dogged the country for so many years. Nation will leave no stone unturned to enhance its development to the desired level and join the level of middle-income countries at least.
Likewise millions of citizens like Woizero Alemnesh are striving hard to earn their livelihood from small scale business opportunities ushered in by the government. Seeing the concrete development boom being realized in the country, so many millions are hopeful to become the beneficiaries of the development endeavor of the country. Indeed, Ethiopia is galloping on the right track of renaissance as the track-record of development in the past years witnessed that the country could make the dream of its citizens come true in the near future.
Mean while, FDRE President Dr. Mulatu Teshome in his inaugural speech at the opening session last September has said that one of the government’s primary objective on the political arena for the current Ethiopian year is to conduct the fifth national election in a peaceful and democratic manner which enjoys the full confidence and credibility; along with keeping up with the concerted efforts to promote good-governance by continuing the on-going reform program.
Accordingly, Ethiopia is making preparations to hold the fifth national election in the coming May. The incumbent government is taking apt measures to further improve the political space in the country. It is exerting strenuous effort to create a level playing field to all political parties that are carrying out political activities within the parameters of the Constitution. Matter of fact, political parties have so far participated in a discussion used to formulate electoral code of conduct that could govern all contesting parties.
The Constitution of the country categorically states that power emanates only from the ballot box. Besides, the government has built up vital democratic institutions to realize fair elections, ensure press freedom and put in place independent judiciary system, among others.
The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) was established by the parliament and is entrusted to conduct fair and credible lections throughout the country. The board has strong working relation with mass media, civic organizations and political parties.
Experience of countries like USA tells us that democratization process may take many hundred years to get matured and enjoyable to the desirable level. Democracy is a recent phenomena in Ethiopia (in the past couple of years since the advent of EPRDF in 1991) and it is at its budding stage. Undeniable, democratic elections are the corner stone of a democratic system. It helps ensure that people govern themselves and maintain power in their hands.
According to the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), more electoral candidates have been registered to the current election far better than the previous elections. Currently, it has amounted to over 34 million before the end of the registration day, according to NEBE Chair Person, Prof. Merga Bekana.
He aid Ethiopia is ready to have free, fair and democratic election in the coming May. He stressed that nation is prepared to undertake election that could further enhance the democratic enrichment of the country.
In a democratic election, contending political parties carry out their activities peacefully and legally. Moreover, contesting parties are expected to promote their alternative programs to the electorates during the media election campaign. The ultimate movement of the contesting parties is usually to promote their political agenda within the framework of rule of law.
Based on the system established to provide financial assistance to contesting parties, he said, NEBE has submitted the draft proposal to political parties eyed at including their say in the formulation and implementation of financial assistance system, intended to subsidize contesting political parties. The proposal has been endorsed after thoroughly discussions and deliberations that enabled to add valuable input to the draft document.
Accordingly, financial assistance could be allocated and utilized based on number of seats at federal parliament and regional councils, number of candidates submitted by all contesting, party’s registration to participate in election and number of female candidates, amounting to 40, 40, 10 and 10 percent respectively.
The financial assistance has taken in to account the option forwarded by contesting parties eyed at encouraging them to participate in the election and alleviating their problem related to finance. Some parties commended on the formulation that this system of financial allocation has taken in to account the current need of contesting parties and the budding democracy of the country.
Based on valuable experiences gained from the previous elections, it is believed that nation would be in a better position to carry out free , fair and credible election by ironing out even slightest irregularities that may encounter in the process.
Most importantly, citizens have to contribute their great share towards conducting free, democratic and credible election. Furthermore, contesting parties have to conduct their political activities within the rule of the game. Ethiopians of all walks of life have to play their indispensable role in ensuring peaceful and democratic elections as this kind of election is vital to help develop democratic culture across the nation.
Moreover, NEBE has a mechanism of resolving grievances that may occur during the run of the electoral process. This enables political parties to express their concern about the election process. And the Secretariat is ready to consider any concern forwarded from legally registered political parties. It has also devised compliant investigation mechanism as part of forging level playing field to all contestant parties and realizing free and fair election.
The tremendous effort of the government and people to make the election free and peaceful is of great importance to all parties that run their activities in line with the code of conduct and legal parameters of the country.
Lastly, it is imperative for every eligible citizen to cast votes to the party that meets the wishes and aspirations of the voting public.