The Myth and Reality of the Six-Percent Factor in Ethiopia
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The Myth and Reality of the Six-Percent Factor in Ethiopia

By Ezana Sehay
Tigrai Online, Oct. 22, 2017

The Myth and Reality of the Six-Percent Factor in Ethiopia
Incidentally, the people who were at the helm of those illustrious and glorious days – the Sabeans, Agaazians and Abyssinians – are the forebears of the “6%”.



Few months a go, Gayle Smith, the former head of the US Agency for International Development [USAID] and current president and CEO of ONE campaign, gave a remarkable speech in front of policy makers and analysts in which she assessed aspects of current global realities. “I think everyone in the room knows that this is a moment of extraordinary progress,” she declared. “Over the last 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half globally.”

In the course of her address, she identified countries where progress is unusually fast – among them Ethiopia.

But Mrs. Smith is not alone in singing the praise of Ethiopia. One recent UN report acknowledged as witnessing a phenomenal progress in the country, helping lift millions out of poverty and in to the middle class. “Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.” The report reads.

In the year 2000 the UN set a goal of eradicating poverty by 2030. With 13 years left to go, the number of totally destitute people in Ethiopia has been reduced by more than 50%. About 25 million people rose out of extreme poverty. A decade a go, Ethiopians living below the poverty line were over 40%. Today that number is around 23%, much lower than the average rate of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, which is about 35%.

Millions of children who were unlikely to survive their fifth birthday past that millstone and are going to school in ever greater numbers. The incident of preventable diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis continue to fall.

All these positive developments are spearheaded by the country’s remarkable economic growth which created much of the reduction in poverty and improving prospects for the poor. According to the WB and the IMF’s recent reports: despite two consecutive years of crippling drought and devastating protests in some part of the country - - it has managed to register the fastest economic growth in the world. The government’s heavy investment in infrastructure, health care, and education is making easier for people to work their way out of poverty.

Back to Honorable Gayle Smith’s address - - most of those in attendance, being themselves already part of the effort to make global progress, were not surprised nor were they unaccustomed to a certain amount of self-congratulation from government officials.

But others were astonished at this piece of news. Apparently, between those who study the true story of the world today, and those who don’t, there is a wide chasm. Evidently, there are those who remain ignorant of truly astounding, and near miraculous events – the likes of the Ethiopian transformation.

The question is why? How? Can this be, as we say so often, the age of information, where news is easily available than ever before? Before I answer the question, let me keep you up to speed with what else is going on in Ethiopia.  

For the most part of the last two decades Ethiopia has been the oasis of serenity in the other wise troubled region of the Horn of Africa. Not only does it maintain its own peace and stability but also the entire region. All the countries in the neighborhood know that terrorism is a terrifying force as they have been victims of its scourge, but it’s much less terrifying if Ethiopia – the leading military power in the region – is on your side.

This strategic realization has been registered among the nations of the continent [Africa] as well as the international community. Such reassessment is based on major re-evaluation of what Ethiopia as a nation represents, and what its development signifies for the future prospects the whole of Africa.

Consequently, the country’s diplomatic clout has soared. Look at what’s happened in the last year alone: Ethiopia is the only country to have achieved almost unanimous vote from UN member nations for the post of security council membership; and its candidate for the head of WHO was elected with unprecedented high vote.  

Furthermore, Ethiopia has become a magnet for trade and investment, attracting the attention of Asians, Europeans, and Americans eager to do business - - making Ethiopia one of the leading destination of FDI in the continent.

Yet many people don’t know about this major change affecting Ethiopia – a change that far from being secret, is often set forth in reports from the UN, IMF, UNDP and others.

This begs the question, why is it that such a hopeful trend remains so little known? Why are we not celebrating the triumph of prudent economic policy and shrewd leadership of the current government of Ethiopia?

Perhaps we’ve heard so often of misery in the country’s past that we’ve come to believe its desperation will remain forever. Perhaps we’ve known so many failures of African governments that we routinely assume not even one of them can succeed. Perhaps a world accustomed to sad news – civil-strife, repression, war – can no longer find it possible to absorb the good kind.

“- - we should let this six-percent run the whole of africa - - “

These assumptions are true to some extent, but are not the only factors why Ethiopia’s ascension is not getting the recognition it deserves. The main reasons are; the government’s [Ethiopia] pathetic public relation [PR] policy and the persistent negative campaign by extremist political entities in diaspora and their sympathizers in side the country. Both are crucial issues that need close examination but for now I’ll dwell on the later.

For years, those Ethiopians who reside in the extremist ecosphere have been telling the world that the Ethiopian progress is a:” hoax, an aberration, cooked-up”. Even the mega projects are “mirages”, they tell us.

Now that the world is learning about the Ethiopian reality, albeit slowly, denying the country’s amelioration is starting to make them [the extremists] fools. Therefore, they have now changed their tune. Their new hymn is the “six percent domination”.  The six-percent (6%) refers to the population of Tigrean-Ethiopians.

{Sidebar: the actual population of Tigrean-Ethiopans is 7%, as there are over a million of them residing out side the Tigray region – not that matters.}

Back to the point, according to the extreme-tribalist groups, the “6%” are in control of everything in the country: The politics, the economy, the military, security, the weather [esp. the bad ones] - - and their tentacles are spread well beyond the country’s boundaries.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, that only shows you haven’t been visiting the extremist media west-land – where the news about Ethiopia is routinely bad and truth is being taken out to the wood shed more often than not. Through these media platforms the tribalist groups malign the nation all the while trying to cripple its economy by instigating riot and terrorism. If one is to distill the negative campaign of the extremist political entities in to one sentence: Ethiopia is an embarrassment where nothing is going right.

After observing Such grime inventory of daily bulletins, the casual observer of Ethiopia may have trouble fending off depression and be left with a sprit of sunken. If so, you should set aside your tired old imagination and look again at the real, and more encouraging, state of Ethiopia.

As for the allegation of domination by the “six-percent”, reasonable people are shrugging it off. Others say, “if the claim is true, then the six-percent must be super-humans”.

Well, I can assure you one thing:  the people of Tigray are renowned for performing extra-ordinary deeds, but are nevertheless ordinary people, just like yourself and I.

Surprisingly, the best response to the imputation is provided by a Nigerian journalist a while back. According to his narration; the reporter was in Addis Ababa to cover the annual gathering of the AU heads of states. It was then he had engaged in a conversation with his Ethiopian counter-part about nation’s rapid development in general and Addis’s transfiguration in particular.

The Nigerian reporter attests – his Ethiopian colleague, acknowledged his country’s positive developments – but added “what’s the point? It’s all controlled by a six-percent.”

Baffled by the response the Nigerian asked his Ethiopian peer “What? What do you mean ‘it’s controlled by six-percent’”?

The Ethiopian responded by saying “All the economic progress, politics, the army, the security is controlled by Tigreans who are no more than six-percent of the Ethiopian population”.

Bemused by the mangled logic of his peer’s statement, the Nigerian countered - “you know what? Maybe we should let this six-percent run the whole of Africa - - but then again they seem too smart to take up the challenge”.

Bottom line, today’s Ethiopia has become a trail blazer and set a bench mark for other African nations to emulate. What one can realize, what’s happening, that’s Ethiopia now: mature, self-confident, and influential, the product of all its people’s energy and opportunities and history. Despite all its travails [not ended yet, of course], that is where it has always wonted to be. This has emboldened the people - -  even profess their country to be on its way to regaining it past glorious status.

In case you’re wondering when exactly was those glorious days; a brief inspection of the nation’s history is called for.

Ethiopia’s recorded history can be categorized in to three distinct chronological chapters. First is the pre-Axumite and Axumite era [circa 950 B.C – 980 A.D], the second is the reign of the Agaw Dynasty [1000 - 1270 A.D] the third is post-Agaw Dynasty up to now.

Relatively little is known or written about the 300 years of the Agaw reign.  But according to some medieval European historians; Ethiopia under the Agaws was mysterious and mythical. Most importantly though they [the Agaws] have left us a remarkable heritage: the magnificent Rock-hewn churches -- a demonstration of a civilization second to none.


The era that followed the Agaw Dynasty is known by its moniker “the dark-era”. or by the axiom “- - Ethiopia was forget full of the world by whom it was forgotten”. It was a period of balkanization, isolation, power struggle and civil-war which lasted till the 20th century – when Ethiopia become synonymous with famine and destitution.

The first chapter, esp. the Axumite period is considered the epoch of modern Ethiopia. Axumite kingdom/empire is what gave Ethiopia its characteristics: religion, culture, tradition, art, nationalism. This civilization has also given Africa its one and only alphabet [Geez]. At its peak the Axumte empire was considered not just a power but a super-power equal to the Roman, Persian and the Han empires. It was an empire respected, feared and prosperous.

Incidentally, the people who were at the helm of those illustrious and glorious days – the Sabeans, Agaazians and Abyssinians – are the forebears of the “6%”.

Need les to say, todays Ethiopian renaissance is an outcome of a cumulative hard-work of the 6%, the 30%, the 25%, the 4%, the 1%, the 0.5% etc. But if the extremist tribalists and Dergists insist on apportioning it to Tigreans, well I think Tigreans should accept it as a badge of honour and wear it proudly.

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