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A Cursory Look into Ethiopia's 15 Years of Socio-Economic Stride  

Nejib Ahmed


Ethiopia was among the countries that acceded to the Millennium Declaration of 2000, adopted by 189 nations, and signed by 147 heads of states during the Millennium Summit in September 2000.

The historical and inspirational declaration was an international deal by which rich and poor governments of the world agreed to unite to eliminate poverty and hunger, work towards achieving gender equality, fight environmental degradation, and reverse the advancement of HIV/AIDS, while improving access to education, health care and clean water, all by 2015.

To accomplish those ambitious goals concrete targets and measurable results were set, which consists eight goals with 21 targets and more than 50 key measurable health and economic indicators for each target.

Ethiopia integrated these targets into national development plans and poverty reduction strategies from the beginning. The three successive poverty reduction medium-term plans, namely the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP, 2002/03-2004/05), the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP, 2005/06-2009/10) and the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP, 2010/11-2014/15), mainstreamed the MDGs and are credited with the poverty reduction and impressive human development achievements in Ethiopia.

How much did Ethiopia accomplish? The report card is impressive by global standards. We cannot cover, in this short article, all the progress made on each and every the MDGs.

Therefore, we will take a cursory look at the major achievements detailed in the new report of the United Nations, entitled "Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 Ethiopia: Assessment of Ethiopia’s Progress towards the MDGs - October 2015".

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

In Ethiopia, the population living below the nationally defined poverty line (which is also called the incidence of poverty) in 1996 was 45.5 per cent, while it was believed to be 48 per cent in 1990. In 1996, the poverty gap and poverty severity were 12.9 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively. Using a conservative estimate, the incidence of poverty declined to 29.6 per cent in 2011 and is estimated to have declined further to 25.1 per cent in 2014 and 23.4 per cent in 2015.

The incidence of poverty thus declined by 35 per cent between 1996 and 2011. It is not only the incidence of poverty that has been declining, but also the poverty gap and poverty severity.

Between 1996 and 2011, the poverty gap declined from 12.9 per cent to 7.8 per cent and poverty severity declined from 5.1 per cent to 3.1 per cent indicating poverty gap and severity declined by 39.5 per cent and 39.2 per cent respectively over the period.

Overall, by the end of 2014, Ethiopia was on track to meet the MDG target of reducing poverty and hunger by half between 1990 and 2015. Ethiopia had already met one of the three targets well ahead of 2015.

The reduction in poverty has occurred in all regional states and both rural and urban areas, although the level of decline is not uniform. Increased agricultural production and productivity, effective implementation of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) that has been providing assistance to over eight million rural people per year since 2005, urban food aid at times of extreme rises in food prices, effective regulation of markets for consumer products and the labour intensive construction projects are some of the main drivers of the observed progress in poverty reduction.

The target of achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, is also on track, but with a significant gender disparity.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Net enrolment rates for both primary and secondary education have increased substantially compared with 15 years ago. The net enrolment rate in primary schools was 21 per cent in 1996 and rose to 93 per cent in 2014, indicating that net enrolment in primary education grew by about 18 per cent per annum. If this trend continues, it will reach 100 per cent in 2015.

The net enrolment rate for secondary education was 8.8 per cent in 1996 and grew to 20.2 per cent in 2014. However, net secondary enrolment is still very low, having increased by only 6.8 per cent per annum between 1996 and 2014. The literacy rate has increased from 27 per cent in 2000 to 47 per cent in 2011. Such growth is perhaps the result of the increase in gross enrolment in primary education.

Despite the success in providing children with near universal access to primary education in Ethiopia, the completion rate for both the first cycle (Grades 1-4) and second cycle (Grades 5-8) primary education did not improve noticeably so as to enable the attainment of the desired target of 100 per cent completion.

Completion rates were 57 per cent for Grade 5 and 34 per cent for Grade 8 in 2005, and had increased to 70 per cent for Grade 5 and 53 per cent for Grade 8 in 2014. Despite these low completion rates, the gender gap in primary completion rates, which was very high in the early years of the period under review, had completely closed by 2014.

Overall, by the end of 2014, Ethiopia was on track to meet Goal 2 but the growth in net enrolment has been slow in recent years and primary education has suffered from grade repetition, children dropping out, and poor learning achievements, such as low competencies in reading and mathematics.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Ethiopia has put substantial effort into eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education. At all levels of education, Ethiopia started with high levels of disparity in the enrolment of boys and girls. There had been some narrowing of the gap even before Ethiopia adopted the MDGs. The ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary schools in 1996 was 36 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

The Gender Parity Index (GPI) in 2000 was 0.7 for both primary and secondary education. By 2014, the GPI for Grades 1-8 of primary education had jumped to 0.93 and had reached 0.94 for first cycle secondary education and 0.85 for second cycle secondary. Since 2012, the GPI has not increased beyond 0.94.

In terms of political empowerment, the proportion of seats held by women in the House of People’s Representatives (lower house of the national parliament) reached 38.7 per cent in the 2015 election, thus surpassing the 30 per cent benchmark—a significant achievement.

This achievement should be complemented by the strengthened capacity of women to engage as effectively in the social, economic and political spheres as their numbers warrant. The role of women in the executive and judiciary should also be further strengthened.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Ethiopia has made progress in reducing child mortality. It fell by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 and the goal has been declared already achieved. Contributing factors to this include increased access to health service coverage, notably immunization. Immunization coverage and contributed significantly to reducing child mortality.

From 36.5 per cent for measles and 41.9 per cent for DPT3 vaccinations in 2001, coverage increased to 86.5 per cent and 91.1 per cent in 2014. This shows that the two are on track to meet the MDG target of 90 per cent and 96 per cent respectively by the end of the MDGs period. As a result, child mortality per 1,000 live births has fallen substantially over the past 15 years.

Under-five mortality per 1,000 live births was estimated to be 166 in 2000 and this had been reduced to 88 by 2011. Under-five mortality is estimated to have declined further to 60 in 2014, which is below the MDG target of 63, indicating that Ethiopia has achieved it target of reducing child mortality by two thirds ahead of time.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

The government, the UN and other development partners are endeavoring to meet the target of reducing maternal mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. The Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) increased from 8.1 per cent in 2000 to 41.8 percent in 2014.

The proportion of women aged 15-49 who are attended at least once by a skilled health provider during pregnancy improved from 26.7 per cent in 2000 to (a still very low) 39.9 per cent in 2014.

The maternal mortality rate was estimated to have declined from 1,400 per 100,000 live births in 1990 and 871 in 2000 and 673 in 2005, before marginally increasing to 676 in 2011 and declining again to 420 in 2013. This represents a significant decline, but not a high enough one to enable Ethiopia to reach the target of 267 per 100,000 live births in 2015.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and other diseases has been prioritized in successive Health Sector Development Programmes (HSDPs) and poverty reduction programmes, including SDPRP, PASDEP and GTP. Ethiopia has succeeded in reducing the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS from 4.5 per cent in 2000 to 1.1 percent in 2014, which surpasses the MDG target of less than 4.5 per cent.

Though the prevalence rate is low, there are slight disparities between rural and urban areas with a relatively higher prevalence rate observed in the Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa City Administrations.

The proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country who were on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) was 1 per cent in 2004, but that had increased to 54 per cent in 2014, which is far behind the MDG target of 100 per cent in 2015. With more effort, ensuring universal access to HIV/AIDS person on ART by 2015 seems achievable.

The percentage of children under the age of five who sleep under nets treated with insecticide increased from 43 per cent in 2005 to 49.3 per cent in 2012. The national tuberculosis detection and treatment success rates increased from 36 per cent and 85.6 per cent respectively in 2009 to 54 per cent and 92.1 per cent in 2014.

By 2013/14, a total of 116,633 TB cases were reported with a TB case notification rate of 133 per 100,000 members of the population. The TB treatment success rate also increased, from 84 per cent in 2009/10 to 92.1 per cent in 2013/14. Therefore, by the end of 2014, Ethiopia was on track with respect to MDG 6.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Ethiopia has a vision of becoming a middle income and carbon neutral economy by 2025. The implementation of the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy developed in 2012 is geared to meeting this ambition. Ethiopia believes that achieving middle income status by 2025 through the conventional development path would result in a dramatic increase of carbon emissions and unsustainable use of natural resources.

As part of implementing the CRGE strategy, a management roadmap was prepared for 1,440.8 thousand hectares of forest. About 22,515 quintals of tree seeds have been distributed to communities. About 10.2 million hectares of degraded area were rehabilitated during the first GTP period (2010/11-2014/15).

Because of these and other rehabilitation activities, it was possible to increase the forest cover of from 13 million hectares in 2012 to 15.93 million hectares in 2014.

Moreover, it was possible to cover 17.7 million hectares of land with multipurpose trees. The forest cover in Ethiopia had increased again to 15 per cent by 2014.

After such an impressive performance in ensuring environmental sustainability, Ethiopia is on track to meet its target for increasing forest cover in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has declared the achievement of the MDG target for access to safe drinking water well ahead of 2015.

Ethiopia is also on track to meet the MDG target for access to sanitation facilities. However, there is a large gap between the access of rural and urban areas to safe sanitation facilities and safe drinking water. As it is unlikely that the rural-urban gap will close in the near future, much effort is needed by the Government to increase the access of rural people to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

Net official development assistance was US$1.1 billion in 2000 and increased to US$3.8 billion in 2013, an annual average growth rate of 17.5 per cent. Of total ODA, 58 per cent was allocated for basic social services (social infrastructure and services such as education and health).

Ethiopia has prioritized key pro-poor sectors such as education, health, agriculture, water and rural roads, as well as industry, as drivers of sustained economic growth and job creation. Untied aid, or aid that is not limited to procurement from companies in the donor country or in a small group of countries, comprised 87 per cent of ODA to Ethiopia in 2012. ODA was 8.2 per cent of Ethiopia’s GNI in 2013, compared with 18.5 per cent in 2004.

With regard to aid effectiveness indicators, Ethiopia scores above the global average for all indicators measured at the country-level, but there has been a decrease in partners’ use of Ethiopia’s public financial management and procurement systems. Ethiopia enjoys preferential market access within COMESA, as well as to the USA and the EU. Since 2003, it has been on the road to accession to the WTO, which has recently been delayed due to protracted negotiations on trade in services.

In 2013, 23 per cent of gross ODA consisted of aid for trade. Ethiopia’s total debt service as a percentage of total exports of goods was 8 per cent in 2013, and its risk of external debt distress, although low in previous years, has recently moved towards moderate risk. The proportion of the population with access to affordable essential medicines was 91 per cent, according to a 2009 study.

Access to affordable information and communications technology (ICT) has increased considerably, albeit from a low base. In 2013, 27 out of 100 people have mobile phone subscriptions, 0.8 out of 100 people have fixed-telephone subscriptions, and 2.3 per cent of the population use the Internet.

Overall, given increases access to modern communication technology, and increasing trends in ODA in both per capita terms and as a percentage of GNI, as well as the possibility of improved debt sustainability, Ethiopia is on track to meet the MDG of developing a global partnership for development.

These achievements are not accidental rather an outcome of committed and competent leadership. Indeed, as the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi pledged in 2010:

"We have now developed our plans based on the progress we have made so far and are intended to help us achieve all the MDGs by the target date of 2015. We are keenly aware that our goals are ambitious and may not be achieved without significant external assistance.

But we are determined to do what we can on our own while seeking support to supplement our own effort. The achievements of the past seven years give us the confidence to move forward with a realistic chance of achieving all the MDGs in time."

Indeed, Ethiopia's hard work paid off and it met those ambitious targets with an outstanding performance!

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