Friday , June 18 2021

Battle for the rise of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the socio-economic reform in divided Ethiopia

SPrime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April this year, and his appraisal ratings increased, which makes him one of the most liked post-communist politicians in Ethiopia. In recent months, Ahmed has passed ambitious and revolutionary plans for economic reforms for a country that is currently in a state of economic instability. Since the founding of the Ethiopian Stock Exchange – a moment of immense importance for what is now the world's largest economy without a stock exchange – up to the recent US tour, Abiy Ahmed has ambitiously begun his term, enacting dozens of new policies in just a few months. His office coincides with the peak of ethnic segregation in Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa. Ethnic conflicts have led more than a million people from their homes only this year. Ahmed's aims of reconstructing the Ethiopian economy through an ambitious socio-economic policy may instead exacerbate the dominant ethnic divisions, thus hampering the future development of Ethiopia.

Ethnic tensions actually led Ahmed to the office. End 500 civilians were killed and over 1600 were detained, during and after 2016 anti-government protests in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Ahmed's predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, resigned under pressure from those ethnically led by Oromo, and Abiy Ahmed, Oromo himself, joined the office behind him. Compared to its predecessors, Ahmed seems to be making much more policy changes, allegedly for a better country. However, the benefits of these policies have not yet reached the most neglected communities, thereby promoting disparities in wealth. For example, the Ethiopian Stock Exchange, a high-risk, high-cost investment that could be a feat for the economy of Ethiopia, remains unavailable to most underrepresented ethnic communities and only deepens the ethnic socio-economic gap that continues to cause conflicts across the country. The stock market in Ethiopia can expect a similar result as the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, a similar concept introduced before the inauguration of Ahmed. "High-tech, low impact". Outside the capital, poorer, rural populations have less resources to invest in stocks and participate in the types of economic transactions and activities that many Ahmed policies are planning to develop. By concentrating on industry and economic development in urban areas, Ahmed effectively promotes the spread of migration in rural and urban areas. This migration affects the distribution of the Ethiopian workforce, and younger people are moving to urban areas in search of higher paid jobs and opportunities, and this in turn creates a socio-economic division based on urbanization and age distribution of different regions. However, Studies show that investments in urban agglomerations in Africa have long-term benefits and provide a more sustainable development path, thus enabling a structural transformation; Urban investment strengthens the long-term development of infrastructure and encourages long-term development of industry. Nevertheless, the direct ethnic crisis continues to accompany the urbanization process and may be an obstacle to this development and growth. While agrarian and rural development initiatives remain short-term solutions, Ahmed must prioritize them as a way to alleviate ethnic conflicts before they reach critical levels, thereby allowing Ethiopia to focus on urbanization in the future. Emerging socio-economic crises, which will probably result from the lack of priority for rural development, may undermine the benefits of Ahmedu, focusing on urban development.

One must not overlook the fact that many of Ahmed's economic projects favor urban areas. While the recent USD 1.3 billion loan from the World Bank intends to develop rural safety network and the promotion of poverty and food insecurity, most of Ahmed's reform policy focuses on the urbanization and development of key urban regions such as the metropolis of Addis Ababa. These innate prejudices to urban development may in turn aggravate the economic and political marginalization of the rural population, as in the case of Ahmed, who enacted plans to reduce poverty, his plans do not take into account infrastructural and industrial development in the poor areas of ethnic tension. By focusing development in urban areas such as Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and other urban areas in which only 16 percent of 105 million Ethiopian citizens live together, Ahmed will consolidate existing ethnic problems such as uneven distribution of wealth and favor those who live in areas including economic development, such as Oromo Ahmed's people.

The Prime Minister's latest policy, many of which are high risk and high costs, including the creation of a stock exchange, heavy state investments in the recently partly privatized Ethiopian Airlinesand striving to create the Ethiopian Dam of the Great Renaissance, can bring cities and more politically influential ethnic groups more than rural, less represented groups, contribute to ethnic socio-economic divisions and threaten Ethiopia's long-term social and political stability.

In addition, Ahmed continued sanctioning the government's occupation of the land in the footsteps of his predecessor. This issue is particularly tense in the Tigray region, where recent development projects, some of which have signed agreements with Chinese companies and American development groups, have led to the displacement of thousands of people from their native land and death 140 people in subsequent protests. The issue of government land seizures is also common in the metropolitan area of ​​Addis Ababa, where the city of four million people is growing at a pace to 8 percent per year and is the center of industry. While Ahmed's economic development policy may contribute to the growth of Addis Ababa, the city's expansion into neighboring tribal areas may stimulate the spread of government sanctioned land seizures, which in turn feed into the foundations of ethnic conflict: the acquisition of ancestral land by a government led by a specific ethnic group does not bode well for relations ethnic.

In addition, Ahmed spoke out loud support for the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, a "mega-dam" built on the Blue Nile, which aroused much controversy in the countries located downstream, namely in Sudan and Egypt. The interest of Ahmed the dam may turn lead to budgetary issuesand although the investment can indeed benefit the economy of the country, whether these benefits reach the most disadvantaged ethnic groups remains doubtful. Ahmed's support for the dam raises further concerns, of which the most important are people who can be resettled when the dam collects the reservoir. Forecasts from International Rivers estimate that the dam could displace up to 20,000 people and flood 1 680 square kilometers from arable land, posing a serious threat to the state of Benishangul-Gumuz, one of the border countries of Ethiopia, neighboring with Sudan, which remains heavily dependent on agriculture. Local reaction to forced displacement and flooding of such a vast area of ​​land can also exacerbate ethnic tensions when the central government assumes tribal and ancestral lands. Some, however, say that economic benefits better access to electricity and water, and the profits from the sale of surplus energy to neighboring countries, such as Sudan and Kenya, outweigh the loss of land. But regardless of whether the profits from the dam reach people whose land has been lost, the benefits themselves can be grossly exaggerated. In addition, while the dam will increase the capacity of the power plant in Ethiopia, more than half Ethiopians still lack electrical infrastructure to gain access to electricity, illustrating how direct benefits may not reach the most deprived. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed should reconsider the impact of the scale and location of the dam, as well as the government's policy of seizing the land and the possibility of calculating compensation for land to resolve the crises resulting from the Grand Renaissance dam.

Ahmed supports ethnic Ethiopian federalism and its segregation policy, further supporting the national culture of ethnic division, despite its public support for a united Ethiopia. Concept ethnic federalism, which defines eight states of Ethiopia through their dominant ethnic group, led some to claim that "Ethiopia has gone further than any other country using ethnicity as the basic organizational principle of the federal system of government.". Ethnic federalist policy can affect the perception of Ethiopia as an unstable region, although it remains one of the more stable countries and economies of sub-Saharan Africa. The negative global image of ethnic division and instability poses Ethiopia in a situation where the potential of key factors of economic development, such as foreign direct investment, can be significantly reduced. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must revise Ethiopia's ethnic policy of Ethiopia to achieve Ethiopia of a united nation, not a state of constant competition between many different ethnic groups.

In summary, Ahmed faces many challenges in his mission of socio-economic reform in Ethiopia. The Prime Minister's latest policy, many of which are high risk and high costs, including the creation of a stock exchange, heavy state investments in the recently partly privatized Ethiopian Airlinesas well as striving to build the Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, can bring cities and more politically influential ethnic groups more than rural, less represented groups, contribute to ethnic socio-economic divisions and threaten Ethiopia's long-term social and political stability. To best ensure the growth of Ethiopia up, Abiy Ahmed may consider focusing on the revision of the Ethiopian policy of ethnic federalism and redirecting more money to projects of social and economic equality – to invest in industry in rural Ethiopia.

Photo: Flag of Ethiopia

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