Treats and Opportunities of the Current global Economic Crisis Vis-ŕ-vis Ethiopian Diasporas

                      

Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.D) Canada (04/02/09)

 

The number of Ethiopian Diasporas has grown over the years and the reasons for their departure are varied. It is estimated that there are over a million Ethiopian Diasporas scattered all over the world. Over half of that number resides in North America: USA and Canada and they represent a significant number of Diaspora populations in some major cities of North America. Their educational, professional and entrepreneurial skills and backgrounds are widely acknowledged by their host cities within the countries they reside because they have contributed as entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, scientists, professors, workers etc. to their host countries. Generally, Ethiopian Diasporas have a very positive impact within their host countries.

 

Ethiopian Diasporas left their country for variety of reasons: economic and/or political. There are others who left because they want a better future for their children although they had a better life at home. Some planned their departure while others left without prior planning, others left for different reasons and yet others were paid to go or left for the adventure. At times it became almost a fever, an irrational frenzy. The key motive to Diasporas departure was rarely accomplished without anguish and hardship and the benefits were most often reaped only by the succeeding generations.

 

Living conditions of Ethiopian Diasporas vary from country to country and from place to place. Generally, those who reside in North America by and large have better living standard than their counterparts in Europe, Asia, Middle-East or elsewhere because those who reside in North America have better opportunities and better access to education, skill training and employment within governmental, non-governmental and the private sector. Further, those who reside in North America have better chances in creating their private businesses in a variety of business sector and making better business investment. As a result of the above opportunities abroad, Ethiopian Diasporas particularly those who had better chances and opportunities to advance have accumulated wealth, education, professional and skills pertinent not only useful within their host countries but if invested in an organized and systematic manner, its value will be even more prevalent and utile within their country of origin where their services is exceedingly needed.

 

It has been known that there are Ethiopian Diasporas with highest level of educational, professional and business backgrounds that are running high level university, business, scientific and medical research institutions in North America and elsewhere. For example, there are more Ethiopian medical doctors in Chicago alone than the entire medical doctors within Ethiopia. Perhaps the same is true with university professors, scientific researchers and others with similar backgrounds. All that accumulated skill and knowledge is an asset both to the countries they reside and more importantly to their country of origin particularly during the current global economic crisis.

 

Since the downfall of the military regime, Diaspora Ethiopians have been returning home in order to explore new venues and sectors for mutually beneficial interaction from investment to transfer of skills and technology to outright philanthropy and charitable works and this tendency has become more marked during the last decade as the Ethiopian economy has opened up giving rise to a new range of opportunities for emerging generations. Their return for investment endeavors back home is vital in helping Ethiopia meet the development challenges of the global economy. Their experience is relevant in closing the gap of skilled Ethiopians needed to move the Ethiopian economy forward.

 

Generally, Diaspora Ethiopians have by and large been contributing to the economy of their country of origin in variety of ways and means such as in the form of remittances, in the field of education, health and in business venture and their contribution has grown over the years; however, their investment as well as their contribution as compared to other African Diasporas for example that of Ghanaians, Nigerians and even Somali-Landers per capita basis although encouraging but has been not only minimal but also less organized. Therefore, there needs more work and commitment from all actors involved in that regard particularly during the current global economic crisis.

 

The current global economic crisis has an adverse effect on the global economy in general and vis-ŕ-vis the economy of the developing world in particular. The adverse effect becomes more prevalent with those financial institutions of the developing countries that have a direct and strong linkage with the financial institutions of the industrialized nations that are currently facing economic crisis. On the other hand however, the negative impact of the current global financial crisis will have less effect on those developing nations like Ethiopia with less or no direct linkages with financial institutions of the industrialized nations that are suffering from the current global financial crisis. The same phenomenon is prevalent vis-ŕ-vis those investors from the developing nations who chose to invest their capital abroad as opposed to investing within the financial institutions of  their respective countries. Those who did the right thing are now benefiting themselves and their country of origin and those who made the wrong decision have been put between the stone and a hard place and became victims of the current global financial downturn. This phenomenon clearly demonstrates the impact of globalization

 

The question of why Ethiopians are pushed away from their country of origin can not be addressed simply by looking at the socio-economic and political problems and inequalities Ethiopians have faced from within their county alone, but also by looking at the international economic order. The reason is simply that the international economic order plays an important role in their displacement as well. Although the problem of Ethiopian Diasporas was mostly due to the socio-economic and political inequalities from within, the global economic distribution also disfavors the inhabitants of the southern hemisphere. Evidences from international institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and GATT have time and again shown that the dominant interests of the industrialized nations are not that of restructuring the international economic system to the advantage of Africa but in stabilization programs, rational planning enhanced by policy reforms which must not be detrimental to the national and regional interests of the developed countries. Therefore, while the continent of Africa is the least developed and thus needs much help from the international community in order to solve its massive financial problems, the international economic order offers little or no hope of addressing the global economic order in general and that of Africa in particular. In fact, one may even assume that the international economic order is part of the problem because by and large it disregards the interest of and imput from Africa. Further, it can be argued that the flow of Diasporas is in part a product of the global economic order that incorporates and classifies Diasporas according to the role they play. It is therefore important to note that industrialized countries were compelled to rely on Diasporas in times of need of labour and during economic growth because their labor has been cheap, available and needed. Further, their labour was needed for industrialized nations’ economic prosperity as they served as an important economic function. On the other hand however, during economic recession such as the current one, industrialized nations loose interest in developing nations and reduce economic aid to developing countries particularly to African nations. It is imperative therefore, that Ethiopian Diasporas particularly those with educational and entrepreneurial skill enhance their commitment in investment within their country of origin which in turn will help build the economy of their country of origin on the one hand and can have a potent influence on social cohesion and economic integration within their country of origin on the other. Also industrialized countries that represent eighty-five percent of the world economy can share their responsibilities by strengthening their financial stimulus and direct aid to African countries. They can also open a genuine market and trade transaction that can benefit the economy of African countries thereby alleviating rampant poverty and backwardness that has become a vicious circle in many parts of Africa.

 

Ethiopian Diasporas can learn from the experience of Diasporas of other developing nations such as Vietnam, India, Ghana, Nigeria etc. and can reverse the trend of the current global economic crisis into economic opportunities. Here are some thoughts in that regard.

 

 

·         Using their educational backgrounds and professional skills, Ethiopian Diasporas can invest back home in an organized and systematic manner within the Ethiopian financial institutions because Ethiopian financial institutions are not victims of the current global financial crisis. I.e. getting their money in a safe basket.

 

·         Diasporas can buy bonds and can be share holders within the profit making Ethiopian governmental as well as private companies and corporations (factories) such as the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, Ethiopian governmental and private banks, Federal institutions, Constructions and real state sectors, food, beverage and other agricultural products that make huge profits within the country.

 

·         Joint venturing with foreign companies that would like to invest in Ethiopia for example in tourism, flower and horticulture businesses and other diverse joint venture activities.

 

·         They can use their entrepreneurial skills to create employment opportunities within their country of origin in order to meet their development challenges of the global economy and in closing the gap of skilled Ethiopians in order to move the economy of the country forward.

 

In addition to the above, Ethiopian Diasporas can enhance their investment within the country in the field of education Health, Agricultural; businesses endeavors and increase their remittance in a systematic and organized manner.