By: Yonas Asnake
Ethiopia was the only country in Africa to demarcate its boundary through bargaining with European colonizers in the early 20th century. This victory had a chance for Ethiopia to produce its political and economy policy by itself. In addition to this, there were golden chances in the country in different historical times: such as the period of before and after Italy invasion, 1960 coup, 1974 revolution, 1991 and 2018 political changes. But the country and its people are still in serious economic problems. Different regimes came and went. They promised and tried to do at least better than the previous regime. But the issues of economic development became an issue of consecutive generation not only today but also tomorrow. My question is now why the regimes failed to make economic development in the country. Why did the regimes fail to use that all chances? I doubt that political issues may be the reason. Politics may badly affect development in all regimes. So that, I need to assess `how much political issues influenced economic development agendas of Ethiopia. `
Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa. It is a landlocked country and shares borders with Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. With more than 112 million people (2019), Ethiopia is the second fastest growing country in Africa after Nigeria. But it is also very poor, earning $ 850 per capita. Ethiopia plans to reach low-middle income level by 2025. The Ethiopian economy grew at an average of 9.8% per annum from 2008/09 to 2018/19. The country is experiencing the worst locust infestation in decades. This could undermine development goals and jeopardize the food security and livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians. Political disruption associated with social unrest can also have a negative impact on the growth of low foreign direct investment, tourism and exports. The country faced limited competition, which limited manufacturing development, job creation. And the underdeveloped private sector, which limits the country’s competitiveness and resilience to shocks. (World Bank, 2019, p.13)
The country has along with its affiliated ethnic-based parties; the EPRDF currently holds all 547 seats in the parliament. Uncompetitive elections and repressive laws on anti-terrorism, civil society, and the media have been used to entrench the EPRDF’s authoritarian rule, effectively eliminating opposition parties and independent news outlets and stifling all forms of dissent. In combination, these led to political protests across the country in 2016, 2017, and 2018. These series opposition brought the authoritarian government to launch some kind of liberalization: transition to democracy (Clapham and Ctapham, 2016, p.74).
The term `development` has no universal definition. It is defined in different way in terms of the focus of the discipline: bureaucratic economists, Marxist revolutionaries, environmental activists, feminist critics, postmodern skeptics, and radical democrats. For Todaro, Even though economy development is a reduction of poverty, inequality, and unemployment, in developing countries, there is highly imperfect market, limited information for consumers/Producers, political and social Priorities than economic calculation. So, he redefine that development means the formation of economic, social, political, and institutional mechanisms based on local history, expectations, values, incentives, attitudes, beliefs, institutional and power structures of a country. These factors are often playing a critical role in success or failure of development efforts (Todaro, 2012, p.12, 13, 15). G/H Baykodagne also believed that economic, social, and institutional mechanisms are important to economic development. `Transformation of entire society is unthinkable without formation of appropriate public policies and economic, social, and institutional mechanism`. He proposed protectionism and import substitution strategy for international market and state-intervention development for internal economy. And also, he believed that creation of educated and wealthy society, infrastructure development and equal political participation of all people in a country are fundamental sources of comprehensive development. (Bicodagn, 1993, p.19)
Fanon briefly listed the causes of underdevelopment of Africa. According to him, there is no economic development in post-colonial Africa. He listed the causes as `the leaders’ limited knowledge, absence of readiness and also surrounded by the artisan classes who have chauvinistic tendencies` (Fanon, 1963, P.150). Their basic interest was nationalization of the economy and transfer into their native hands. For this purpose, they pushed the People from nationalism to ultra-nationalism, to chauvinism, and finally to racism. This also brought competition among ethnics or religions and then deep economic stagnation. Finally, they invited ex-colonial power’s multi-corporation, and exported their wealth into foreign countries. These complications brought discontent among the people, and pushed the regime to dictatorship. (Fanon, 1963, P.166)
Based on this, Fanon concluded that government in underdeveloped countries has learned nothing from history (Fanon, 1963, P.173). He advised that there is no progress without democracy. So that, if they need to be national government and internationally prestige, they must govern by the people and for the people, give back their dignity to all citizens, fill their minds and feast their eyes with human things. (Fanon, 1963, P.204)
In this paper, I am only going to show how political problem in Ethiopia has influenced development of the country during three consecutive regimes. I used different literatures which are written by scholars.
Emperor Haile Selassie’s government came to power as a force of change. With the help of the “Mehal Sefary” and the young Ethiopians who learned in Europe, The king had a lot of support. This is because the king was expected to make economic and administrative improvements for the benefit of the people. For instance, intellectual reforms of the young Ethiopian (progressive, Japanizes) like Afewerk G/Iyessus, G/H Baykodagn, Hiruy W/Selassie, Deressa Amenti, T/Hawariat W/Mariam, Asbbe Hailu, and Hakim Workneh Martin were prominent figures. They advocated modern bureaucracy, reforms in land, formation of national development plan, formation of constitution, and import substitution industrialization. These efforts influence the reform agenda of emperor H/Sellasie before and after Italy occupation. (Kassa & Lishan, 2000, p.6)
Initially, the king also took measures to become an apostle of change. According to Alemayehu Geda, Emperor H/Selassie attempted modernization by expand schools, health facilities, constitution, infrastructure and medium-term planning (Alemayehu, 2007, p.2). Even after the Italian invasion, many people hoped for continuation of this change. Ats H/Selassie announced the same hope in a speech on his return from exile:
`Today is the new era of new Ethiopia, a day for rebirth and renaissance and the beginning of a new task for new Ethiopia.` (Yonase, 2018, p.68)
He launched that the time is the period of Netsanet (liberation), National freedom and new Silitane (modernization). So that agenda of development became first priority of government. It became as a national imagination for secular Ethiopia. It used as cement to unity of the people transcending religious or nationality difference. One of emperor H/Sellasie’s speech to Muslims said that `limit for their country, for stability of their state and to the unity of the people`(Yonase, 2018, p.75). Until 1944, an emperor H/Sellasie initiated to forge relation with USA for National sovereignty and economic development (Yonase, p.70). Generally modernization through development planning was the pillars of the post 1940’s Ethiopia State ethos (Yonase, p.77). Generally, the king’s actions appear to be aimed at undermining the Italian legacy. Amanda Mcvety recognize as `Upon reclaiming his throne, Haile Selassie renewed his efforts to modernize Ethiopia`(Mcvety, 2008, p.383). “Development” has become a new language. To achieve this, the agreement held with the US government and the next five-year development plan will be mentioned.
As Amanda Mcvety explanation, Point Four was signed between Ethiopia and USA in Addis Ababa 16 June 1951. It is first American response to newly defined problem of global poverty in 35 countries including Ethiopia. It may be America had a target to stop communism but Ethiopia got millions of dollars of foreign assistance. The plan focused to improve agricultural production, education and public health service. USA began implement the treaty by sending millions of dollars and expertise since 1952. For instance, to improve agricultural production, support to form College of Agriculture, training to administrator to fill leadership gap. And then, to achieve comprehensive development, even they extended their focuses to education and public health. (Mcvety, 2008, p.387 & 388)
But, Emperor Haile Selassie frustrated with Point Four’s limited ability to transform his country to march his vision (Mcvety, p.395). So that, he decided in 1954 to embrace a new development scheme that was called Five Year Development Plan. Even though Point Four’s experts assumed that the plan appeared with only high-modernist vocabulary, H/Sellasie believed that the plan pull Ethiopia from its economic backwardness and into strengthen its economy and its position in international relations (Mcvety, p.393). His effort continued until the eve of revolution. `on the eve of 1974 revolution Ethiopia was in the final year of the implementation of the 3rd five year plan and wrapping up the preparation of the 4th five year plan.` (Eshetu & Mekonnen, 1992, p. 4)
But all these efforts had never brought significant economic development in the country. Emperor Haile Selassie’ regime, with More than 40 years, was not short time to achieve economic development at national level. Now the question is that why all these efforts were failed? `
H/Sellasie’s ambition was questioned by political and economic intellectuals. According to Point Four’s experts, H/Sellasie followed his own path. `He was working to secure the power of the crown against competing local authorities and ethnic nationalism`. Messay Kebede also said that `modernization for H/Sellasie nothing else but the use of modern means to assert his complete power over the nobility because, he was ultimately more concerned with security than with development`. Both, Point Four’s experts and Messay agreed that `modern` meant `democratic`. But, H/Sellasie spent his time and money to build `modern army` (Mcvety, 2008, p.395).
Intellectuals affirmed that no development plan can succeed without a political solution.
`There is no development without democracy. So that, if leaders need to be national government and internationally prestige, they must govern by the people and for the people, give back their dignity to all citizens, fill their minds and feast their eyes with human things. (Fanon, 1963, p.204)
The end of Emperor Haile Selassie seems like this. Despite there was economic growth in macro level, public opposition had been rising. The main questions of the protest were “land reform” and “political reform.” Even after the Italian invasion, the emperor did not want to make economic and political changes. Instead, they tried to cover up the political issue with a “development” agenda.
`In the post-war years (1941-1974), Emperor Haile-Selassie followed nearly the same development strategies. He had followed in the pre-war years. He was in no hurry to dismantle feudalism.`(Kassa and Lishan, 2000, p.12)
The 1953 coups confirmed the importance of these economic and political reforms. Various scholars like Kebede Michael, Mahteme Selassie W/Meskel, T/Tsadic Mekuria, Romanwork Kassahun, T/M Fantaye, Abbe Gubegna, Haddis Alemayehu, Mesfin W/Mariam, Assefa Beqele, Eshetu Chole etc also have criticized repeatedly (Kassa and Lishan, 2000, p.13-26). For instance, Hadis Alemayehu clearly asked the significances of political reform and modern political and economic organizations. He said `the country was sitting on political time bomb`. In terms of politics, he advised Parliamentary system under constitutional monarchy and limited number political parties. In terms of economy, he advised select development ideology from the east, west and local knowledge. Mesfin W/Mariam also clearly advised the importance of rural based economy development strategy. (Kassa and Lishan, 2000, p.22)
In addition to this, it has been openly criticized in countries like the United States (Mcvety, 2008, p.395). But, the emperor’s régime had continued to ignore. Eventually, the question of political reform came to be radicalized within the socialism and national rights (Mcvety, 2008, p.403). The result was a bloody coup d’état which destroyed all that was, followed by civil war.
According to Clapham(2004, p.73), Even though, Derg inherited from previous regime twin problems such as highly centralized state and structural imbalance between the source of political power and economic development, the Derg regime overestimated by the people as the symptom of new era. Until September 2, 1967, the process that led to the change was the so-called “slow and bloodless revolution”. Until September 12, 1974, the way that led the change attracted the attention of the people and was the so-called “slow and bloodless revolution.” accountability of feudal nobles because of exploitation of people, confiscation of property in the name of the people, distribution of rural land to the peasants and urban surplus house to the poor, establishment of urban and rural consumer and farmer associations, and the proclamation of socialism, etc. became significant measure that brought big public support to the Derg regime.(Adejumobi, 2007, p.120)
`Ethiopia Tikdem` of Derg’s motto also defined a system as `equality, self-reliance, and dignity of labor, the supremacy of common good, and the indivisibility of Ethiopia’s unity` (Eshetu, 1992, p.8). The Derg regime clarifies its socialism ideology through different consecutive measures. It launched `Marxism-Leninism` as a guiding ideology of the government in April 1976. After 10 years, Ten Years- Perspective Plan (TYPP) was launched; Workers Party of Ethiopia was formed (Eshetu, 1992, p.10). Ten Years- plan gave priority to agriculture and then to industry. But, due to intensive internal conflicts, catastrophic drought and famine and also instability in coffee price at international market, the rate growth of GDP at averaged was 1.9% per annum (Eshetu, 1992, p.12, 14). The regime gave response to revive its economy by brought economy reform. It changed command economy into mixed economy policy on March 1990. The change planned to avoid agricultural quota and free movement of grain, allowing private sector and dissolution of cooperative (Eshetu, 1992, p.35).
But all these efforts had never brought comprehensive public acceptance. Proponents of feudalism, as well as political elites, continue to oppose political thinking of the regime. The government’s response to economic questions has not been repeated to political affairs. Clapham (2019, p.38) understood this point and said `Its political economy failed most basically at the political level because it didn’t establish any structure to public participation`.
Students’ questions are primarily about “land for the farmer” and “democracy.” but, the new government distributed land for the farmer and in contrary it tried to suppress democratic rights. This led to a protracted civil war. It turned the Derg government’s economy into a “war economy.” It wasted the country’s resources and time on the principle of “everything goes to the front.”
`Ethiopia economy in Derg regime was its unprecedented militarization. (Gebru, 2009, p.321) The economy was a `war economy` and the consequence of these were bound to be disastrous. The war started to effect on the governmental budget by increasing 105 million birr in 1974, into 1.8 billion birr in 1988. It affected education, health, exported capacity, disruption of infrastructure`
Eshetu and Mekonnen(1992, p.40) conclude as “17 years wasted in the eyes of the economy.” According to them, the Derg’s development agenda has been used to divert attention from political tensions. Because of this, government underwent economic reforms as the economy weakened under domestic and international pressure. Though it declared a mixed economy, it did not work. The political question was not answered, and the civil war and economic crisis continued. Finally, in 1991, it made a drastic change that force its economy back to zero. Gebru summarize two decades as “For nearly two decades, Ethiopia was a land of war, death, destruction, despair, and misery, but also one of hope, reform, and reconstruction; of struggles for national cohesion and identity but also for autonomy, freedom, dignity, and an unfettered future (Gebru, 2009, p.1) “. Anyhow, Due to new government come to power, discontinuity of economic policy has continued: from command to free market.
In 1991 the EPRDF’s government seems to have learned from history. Eshetu and Mekonnen (1992, p.39) predicted EPRDF threats and opportunities in 1990. `The transition process: from war to peace and from state control to a more liberal economy will perform in the next few years`. It was true because of EPRDF took significant and preplanned measures towards politics and economy of the country.
`The political structure erected by the EPRDF government since it assumed power in 1991 has been quite unique in Africa, and is far from unproblematic. In seeking to build explicitly on the different “nationalities’“(Clapham, 2004, p.78)
The ruling party declared freedom of the economy by allowing free markets and private property. It said as it gave “radically responded” to political questions by holding a transitional government, drafting a constitution and holding democratic elections with the participation of the people. To this end, free newspapers flourished to show respect for freedom of expression. “New regional structure” was created to show how much respect the rights of nations. `Nations, nationalities and peoples` were allowed to use their own language for work and education.
`The Charter introduced the “right to self-determination” prefiguring the reordering of the Ethiopian State along ethnic lines. This ethnic-based federalism was endorsed by a Constitution ratified in December 1994 that formalized the division of the country into 9 federal states “delimited on the basis of settlement patterns, identity, language and the consent of the people concerned” (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution, 1994: Art. 46-47) and 2 special administrative zones.`(Valfort, 2006, p.5)
In the EPRDF’s early years (1991-98), the regime’s key priority was establishments of its political base, an enterprise that called for decentralization program, involving the establishment of regional states for each of the country’s major ethnic groups, stated so far as possible by indigenes of those groups (though always subject to security control by the regime) (Clapham, 2018, p.1154). `
Government launched `unique and excellent` political independence that allowing for ethnics to be have “self-determination and secession.” Meles zenawi won the Nobel Peace Prize for its urgency in urging the people of the world to give recognition for Eretria to be independent nation. His desire to liberate nations became a “civilized democracy” that went so far as to make the country a landlocked country. A “developmental state” and a “revolutionary democracy” were introduced and applied as a new ideology to bring radical change in Ethiopia politics and economy.(Clapham, 2004, p.45)
The EPRDF has learned from the two previous governments and provided answers to both economic and political issues. This has radically changed the country’s political and economic structure. As a result, continuous economic growth, especially since the 1997 election, has been confirmed by international organizations.(World Bank, 2019, p.2)
Clapham (2018, p.1151, 1155) figure out the success of Ethiopian development state in 2018. According to him, over the period between 2000 and 2013, Ethiopia ranked second only to Angola in sub-Saharan Africa with a gross domestic product (9.5%). It was improved in 2015: the growth rate of 9.6% became the highest in Africa and second highest in the world. EPRDF followed East Asian models. `Although the government continued to promote improved productivity in peasant agriculture, it now placed its greatest emphasis on providing the infrastructure conditions necessary for industrial development: expansion of the road and communication network, hydroelectricity, and human capital formations. As a source of finance, government uses external development aid, concessional loans, foreign direct investment (increased from ṩ279 million in 2012 to ṩ 2168 million in 2015). Because, government persuaded international community as Ethiopia is `forces of stability in an unstable region`, partner in the `global war on terror`, major supplier to `peace keeping forces`, mediator in disputes of East Africa countries, and also successful in `millennium development goals`
With surprise, while the EPRDF won 100% of the national election in 2018, and the economic growth was continuing with double digits for continues years, there were widespread political protests. The violence in Amhara and Oromia regions was uncontrollable for government even by declaring “state of emergency”. It became the source of widespread destruction of life and property. Instead, the revolt itself split the ruling party into two and produced a “new amendment” within the party.
Now the basic question is `Why did the economic and political upheaval occur 27 years after the public question was answered radically? `How did unemployment youth number highly increased? If double-digit economic growth is confirmed for uninterrupted of years, how is the country’s debt burden arrived over standard? How did the young people became immigrant in huge number and even irreversible in the face of death?
The answer is the same. The EPRDF did not engage the people honestly and did not give honest answers to political questions. The EPRDF has tried to create a nation of nationalists by isolating the “national political forces”. “Democracy” interpreted by EPRDF was the process of “destroying” an historic country and dividing the country into so-called “nations”. Due to this reason, minority peoples who assumed any corner of the country as its home and lived became stateless citizens. The EPRDF era is a time of constant conflict between the so-called “citizens” and “immigrants” in the country and in the diaspora. Many people were temporarily displaced, permanently evacuated, prisoned, and massacred because of only their ethnic identity and/or political attitudes. Finally political struggles in all direction arrived at the peak and gave birth to a “transformed” EPRDF. A new government has been formed by calling the former EPRDF’s 27 years as “dark time”, replacing “revolutionary democracy” by `Medemer`, excluding the TPLF from the political arena, promising to open its economy to the international market, and transforming itself from a “front” to “unified party”.
Ethiopia is a country where the same questions are asked by the people for all three governments. All three governments have responded in the same way. They has used “Development and economic growth” agendas to gain public support and to avoid political reform that shares political power.
Kassa & Lishan, Yonas, and Mcvety, all these three researchers, expressed the ambitions of the people, the scholars and the politicians about the development of Ethiopia in 20th century. They have interrogated that why these ambitions of development was not achieved. All of them agreed that Ethiopia have lost good development chances in different period of time. The Imperial, Dreg and EPRDF regimes spent their time for only political struggles. Because of this the first two decades of 20th c, the post Italy aggression, Ethio-America Point-Four agreement and 1991’s change were taken as lost opportunity in terms of Economic development.
This trend made cyclical evolution of policy regimes in last four decades. Alemayehu, (2007, p.3) expressed this situation as `the environment for growth evolved from a fairly market-oriented one to a highly controlled one before being liberalized in the 3rd period`. He also evaluated and concludes the performance of all three regimes. He said that
`Growth performance in Ethiopia has been disappointing when compared to other developing countries; however the rate of growth has varied across the three regimes. GDP growth was the highest during the Imperial era, declined during the military regime and revived during the post-Derg regime. But, total factor productivity growth was negative under all the three regimes. There is a marked absence of structural transformation during the past four decades due to structural problems and initial condition, especially in the Derg and EPRDF regimes.` (Alemayehu, 2007, p.19)
The question is that why all of them loudly talked about development and failed to achieve economic growth.
All three governments were not ready to give honest respons to political questions. Surprisingly, all three governments were eventually abducted because of this political infighting. Clapham (2004, p.47) conclude as `the underlying issues that have historically shaped Ethiopia’s political economy nonetheless remain unresolved, and may indeed well be regarded as unresolvable`
Sadly, the question of “economic and political equity”, which could easily be answered, is changing shape from generation to generation and becoming more complex. Today, the economy has grown from a cover of political agenda to servant of politics. Today, the political elites are creating political agendas to make better economic advantages to the so-called `our ethnic group`. This means that there is no negotiable political agenda on the table. In the wake of the political upheaval, the politica’s elites have emerged as the mastermind behind the economic boom.
Similar with Ake, Fanon and Ferguson’s explanation, development as an ideology served in Ethiopia the interest of political elites and their patrons. All three regimes in Ethiopia have learned nothing from failures of their descendant. Any form of development assistance during these regimes was part of the expansion of the capitalist mode of production.
Now the question is continuing to Dr. Abiy, the current leader of the new EPRDF. `How he can disconnect the bribery of elite politics from political question of the country and the people?` As we conclude that failure to answer political questions was major cause of underdevelopment of people and country. So that, Prosperity can be hoped only for if political difference was resolved in an inclusive and honest manner.
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