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Positive image weighing heavier

Positive image weighing heavier

Bereket Gebru 01-10-17

The two sides of Ethiopian politics, the incumbent and the opposition, have always depicted a different picture of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government, had until recently, focused on the positive development in the country sending out a message of growth and prosperity. The opposition, on the other hand, tries to paint a gloomy and hopeless image of Ethiopia. As most of us can agree on, the truth is somewhere in between.

Considering how hard it was for the Ethiopian opposition to accept the country’s rapid economic growth at its early days, the burden of proof is normally on the government to undeniably showcase the achievements it claims to have instigated. However, the deep mistrust between the two sides makes it hard for the opposition to believe any positive report the government comes up with - at least unless it is glaringly vivid as in the case of the sustained economic growth.

Recent developments seem to offer a new variable though. This variable is the opinion of the international community. Despite the big role national interest plays in acknowledging certain policies and realities in a country, the perceptions in the international system about a country’s prosperity are not liable to such measures. The use of mathematical measures to determine one’s growth makes it hard for countries to deny quantitative proofs. For instance, a country or an advocacy group might come up with negative reports on the state of human rights in a country by focusing on a few targeted aspects of human rights. However, it would be hard to deny a 10% annual growth that lingers for over a dozen years.

Accordingly, recent reports by the international community seem to suggest that Ethiopia’s image has steadily changed for the better over the last quarter of a century. The most recent of these reports indicate the stature Ethiopia has come to command in the international system. That spells a bad omen for the Ethiopian opposition that always strives to discredit the government and agitate the people towards conflict with their government.

The first one of such reports states that 2016 was a relatively better year for Africa than it was for Europe. The Reuters report states that Ethiopian, Kenyan, Nigerian and South African transport sectors enjoyed a great year with each of them constructing railways. The report goes on to state that the construction of these rails would facilitate economic and social growth.

The Ethio-Djibouti railway that was completed recently, however, seems to standout from the rest of its African endeavors as it was selected as one of the seven most majestic infrastructure projects of 2016 by ‘wired’ website. The railway has claimed the spot along with other multi-billion projects including: the most expensive ($4 billion) train station ever in New York City, the floating bridge of Seattle, the Swiss Gotthard base tunnel that took 17 years to complete, the Panama Canal expansion project, the 3.1 mile long Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge in Istanbul that connects Europe and Asia, and New York’s second avenue subway that has been in the works for a century.

The explanatory note about the railway goes further to state the current economic situation in the country, inflicting more damage to the wishes of those who don’t want to read or hear anything positive about their own country under this regime. The note reads: “Ethiopia opened its very first rail line to tiny, neighboring Djibouti in October. It’s a pretty big deal for the East African country, and for its capital of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and this new electric railway—mostly financed and constructed by the Chinese government and Chinese firms— connects the landlocked country to the ocean. It should cut travel times between Addis Ababa and Djibouti from three days to a mere 12 hours.”

Other reports describe Ethiopia as an “African lion.” Duetche Well (DW) reported that an Ethiopian government delegation went to solicit German investment to Ethiopia. DW quotes Zemedneh Negatu, Managing Director of Ernst & Young and an Ethiopian government advisor, as saying "The biggest economy in Africa is Nigeria; South Africa got dethroned two years ago by Nigeria. Third is Angola, and guess who is number four: Ethiopia."

Considering Ethiopia had been identified as one of the poorest countries in the world with its name used synonymously with famine, its ranking among African countries was very low. Less than a handful of African countries were in a worse state of poverty than Ethiopia just a quarter of a century ago. If there was anything Ethiopian that grabbed the attention of the world, it was war, drought, famine and athletics. Apart from the heroics of its athletes at international platforms, Ethiopia caught the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

All that pessimism has now been replaced by hard work, self-belief and achievements that come fast and thick. The country is nowadays termed as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, if not the fastest. Its remarkable feat in dragging half of its poor population out of poverty is also often raised. The achievements in the education and health sectors have serves as the basis for sustained growth in the future. Its incredible expansion of infrastructure has also been used as a constructive lesson by other African countries that visit to share the experience.

That is the reason behind the recent assertion by an international media about power generating activities in Ethiopia. There was a recent article by the Guardian which narrated Ethiopia’s long march towards becoming a power provider for a number of African countries. The article applauded the country’s efforts to generate a significant amount of renewable energy with special emphasis on wind energy. Considering the tremendous efforts the country is exerting to develop its geothermal and solar resources, it is set to become the power hub of Africa soon enough.

Sustaining and building on these achievements call for the concerted efforts of Ethiopians. Through the current system of extreme opposition, however, the chance for the two political sides to work together is non-existent. A clear understanding of the fact that both sides are actually working with the best interest of Ethiopia at heart should be enough to dismantle the walls of political separation and kick in a new era of Ethiopian politics.

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