Yonas Biru, PhD
According to the Ethiopian News Agency, the Ethiopian Minister of Finance estimates $20 billion is needed to reconstruct war torn areas in Tigray, Amhara and Afar. In addition, it is fair to assume Ethiopia needs at the very least $20 billion per annum to fully implement the PM’s visionary economic reforms.
The first question is: Where is this money going to come from? One thing is for certain. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in natural resources. Sadly, both the Ethiopian government and its intellectual base fails to accept this hard reality. In 2021, People-to-People (P2P), one of the most prominent Ethiopian intellectual forums, launched a Go-Fund-Me initiative to help Ethiopia become self-sufficient. This was their effort to overcome Ethiopia’s foreign exchange shortfall caused by sanction threats from the US and EU.
The Quixotic initiative raised no more than $200,000. The ratio of the P2P colony’s contribution to the estimated $40 billion needed is 0.000005. When all is said and done, P2P did not even rise to the level of a rounding error. The failure of P2P is explained in my article titled “Ethiopia’s Political Problems Reside in Its Mythological National Identity.”
Ethiopia’s contemporary elite’s thought process is driven neither from an enlightenment of thought, nor guided by the light of reason. Instead, its mindset is built by extrapolating its spiritual and mythological narratives in perpetuity, making spirituality and mythology constant features of its identity. Such an identity is not prone to adopting to a fast-evolving geo-political universe.
The bottom line is that the needed resources must come from the West, primarily the US, the very nation that Ethiopians and the #NoMore ባል ደራሶች have been condemning as neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist, neo-everythingist and anti-Ethiopia to boot.
Sadly, the #NoMore clan has been working with the government like the proverbial hand in glove. The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington serves as a cross between the spiritual altar and resting station for them. When the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, who also doubles as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in the US, it was the #NoMore diplomatic corps he met in New York.
Ironically, the government that has been accusing the US government of aiding and abating the TPLF’s predatory excursion and acts of ravaging is now thanking the US government for pressuring TPLF to accept what is nothing more than a dignified surrender on every front. The TPLF agreed to disarm, relinquish power, allow the Federal army to peacefully enter Mekele and to accept the constitutional order.
The second question is: What does Ethiopia need to do to get the IC pay for Ethiopia’s reconstruction and development programs. The first thing is a shift in mindset. This requires expiring, exiling, and silencing the #NoMore geopolitical misfits.
Before we answer the “what else needs to be done” question, we need to flag two things. First, let us remember that in 2010, the IC pledged $13.5 billion to reconstruct Haiti after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that killed 220,000 people and 300,000 injured. None of it materialized.
The IC may have promised Ethiopia to help finance the nation’s reconstruction efforts to stop the war. It does not necessarily mean they will come through. Let us take the US as an example, the largest donor by far. The State Department and the White House may have promised Ethiopia. But it is the Congress that controls the purse and decides on all matters of financial appropriations.
Come January, the US House of Representatives is likely to be controlled by Republicans who are not going to be keen to fulfill Biden’s promise. Also remember that the West is in recession or close to it and money, especially international aid, is going to be tight.
Ethiopia did not trust the EU to be an observer during its mediation with the TPLF in South Africa. Now, it is preparing to ask EU to foot the bill for reconstruction to the tune of billions. This was the reason I have been warning about the consequences of a myopic anti-West አቱቶ ቡቱቶ. There were ways to deal with the EU and US with skillful diplomacy aided with well thought-out geopolitical strategy. The government left the nation’s geopolitical engagement to incapable officials and street diplomats. Now the PM will have to appeal to and plead with the EU. ወለዮች “የማያዛልቅ ጸሎት” ለቅስፈት የሚሉት ለዚህ ነው::
Second, from 2018 to 2020, the US, EU and the rest of the West were out in full force to see Ethiopia’s experiment with democracy and economic transformation succeed. They poured in unprecedented billions. After the war, the IC legitimately lost confidence in the PM’s ability to manage Ethiopia.
This is due partly to TPLF’s international propaganda ecosystem that painted the PM and his administration in a negative brush. It is also due partly to the PM’s utterly poor management of the nation’s geo-political affairs. The reality is not very encouraging, but the PM needs to do the following to overcome the daunting situation.
On The Domestic Front
- The rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tigray is going to be a very challenging effort, where the war claimed 300,000 Tigrayan lives. Add to this upwards of 500,000 souls who were maimed.
- The PM needs to establish a Council of Elders in Tigray, consisting of five to seven prominent Tigrayans to oversee the transition, rehabilitation, and reconstruction processes. Let the Council appoint a Transitional Administrator, who will be charged to set up an interim cabinet to help with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Tigray and prepare Tigray for election. The governance modality with council of elders as the overall custodians of the transition and competent technocrats as administrators of the transition will inspire confidence and trust in the process.
- If the federal government takes on the rehabilitation and reconstruction task with the federal government appointed Administrator, it will face difficulty including potential sabotage by fifth column Tigrayans in every step of the way. The Federal government must restrict itself to a supporting role and resist the temptation to get itself involved in decision-making responsibilities. This is due partly to shield the federal government from untowardly groups and individuals who may work to see the federal government fail. The other part is the need to
give Tigrayans voice and administrative power to lead the effort. The PM tends to micromanage all high-profile projects. If he fails to resist this temptation, it will be his undoing in Tigray.
- Another important step on the domestic front is establishing a functional PR ecosystem led by competent and experienced experts.
On The International Front
- Internationally, the challenge is even more formidable. Ethiopia needs enormous international resources at a time where the West is experiencing an economic downturn and Ukraine is sucking up a large part of the international aid.
Here are some critical steps that the government needs to take.
- The PM needs to win the confidence of the IC. This requires change on two fronts.
- First, rebuild the image of the PM as a credible partner to the IC, a visionary reformer, and capable governor. This requires strategy, well-developed narrative, and skillful diplomacy. For two years, the IC was bribing, threatening, sanctioning Ethiopia to stop the war to mitigate economic and social damages. Government officials were telling the IC to go to hell with their rotten aid. The government and the moronic Ethiopian diaspora treated the West as an enemy. The PM cannot simply go to the West to hand him a blank check for $40 billion. He needs some explanation and some confidence building work to do. It is a difficult undertaking, but not an insurmountable one because of Ethiopia’s strategic importance in the global geopolitical landscape.
- The PM needs to hire two powerhouse lobbying firms– one with close contact with Republicans and another one that works closely with Democrats. Decision must be made by “who is the best lobbying firm” in each case not by “how much they charge?” Do not try to save $3 million to $5 million per year when what is at stake is north of $40 billion.
- Ethiopia can learn from Ukraine. Ukraine lobbyists are pushing the US and EU to cover the cost of a Marshall Plan for Ukraine estimated from $100 billion to $750 billion. This is how nations are run in the 21st century.
- Hiring a powerhouse lobbying firm alone is not enough. The nation needs to have a geo-political and geo-economic strategies and well-developed narrative. It needs to build three narratives: (1) Explaining the difficult position he was in defending the constitution with acknowledgment where errors were made; (2) Why financing Ethiopia’s reconstruction and development efforts is in the best interest of the IC; and (3) What corrective measures he has put in place to win back the confidence of the IC.
- One of the highlights of the narrative needs to be the appointment of qualified cabinet members with international repute particularly in areas of finance, foreign
affairs, economics, and diplomatic posts. The PM must make sure that his cabinet members and those who hold key Ambassadorial positions measure up to the task that the nation’s strategic importance demands.
Ethiopia’s success in implementing the PM’s reform and the nation’s reconstruction efforts depend heavily on foreign aid. Sadly, the nation’s foreign policy is the worst Ethiopia has ever seen. This should not come as a surprise, considering the people the PM appoints to lead the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even worse, our foreign emissaries are out of their league and unprepared to navigate through a complex geopolitical universe.
Ethiopia was the Mecca of Africa’s diplomatic relations. Today, Nairobi is increasingly becoming the go-to African capital. This was evident when US Secretary of State Blinken visited Africa twice without stopping in Addis. Since the onset of the war, everything Ethiopia has done in the geopolitical arena has been misguided and below par. Ethiopia is in desperate need of an urgent paradigm shift in mindset and strategy in geopolitics and public diplomacy. There is still time to change course, if the PM is amenable for change.