The Rebirth of Ethiopia!
Today, Ethiopians will come out in force to mark the fall of the military regime and the beginning of the country's renaissance. The Derg was overthrown by a combined force of rebels led by the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) following 17 years bloody struggle.
The struggle was necessary not least because of the terror that the junta unleashed on the people, but also because of the repressive policies that deepened the age old underdevelopment and poverty. By its infamous red terror campaign the military junta killed thousands, mainly students and workers, triggering massive exodus of the survivors. Moreover, its socialist economic policies that did not allow private investment led to economic stagnation and shortages of all consumers goods.
On the other hand the little resources that the country had were used to quell the rebellion that had engulfed the whole country. This led to a dire economic situation, marked by shortages of everything, including food. The situation was aggravated by frequent droughts which led to wide spread famine and starvation. International community responded with massive aid efforts and the country's name became synonymous with "hunger".
Aid agencies and donors referred to it as "basket case", to indicate its aid dependent. The economic pressures, added on top of the military pressure led to the down fall of the military regime on May 28, 1991.
The demise of the military regime ushers in a new era of peace and development. The turnaround of the country was immediate and the country has been moving up in every respect since then. Politically it became stable following the establishment of a new dispensation embracing pluralism. The new found unity in Ethiopia is voluntary and the buzz word is "Unity in diversity".
Every nation has the right to govern itself, and develop its own language and culture. In addition, policies put in place by the government, not only resuscitated the economy, but also put the country in a fast track development. The economy has been growing in an excess of 11 percent GDP per annum for the last eight years or so. This led to increase of the per-capital and reduction of poverty head count index from 38,7 percent to 29,6 percent according to the World Bank.
Unlike in the past, the country is now in the stage where it citizens can't die of hunger anymore. It has built sufficient food reserves to take care of any emergency the country may face. That is why nobody starved to death last year despite wide spread drought which put at risk the lives 20 million people (5 million in Ethiopia alone) in the horn of African Sub-region.
So May 28 is celebrated every year to reflect on these gains and chart the way forward. But this year's celebration is different for it comes at a time when Ethiopian renaissance has become a really. It's widely accepted that Ethiopia is among the ten fastest growing economies in the World. The country is now in its second year of implementation of an economic plan dubbed, Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).
The gist of the GTP is to transform the economy from a largely agricultural to a manufacturing base. Thus at end of GTP (2015), agriculture will relinquish its leading role to manufacturing and industries, and the country's GDP will double. Some of the projects that are underway to realise the GTP include, 71 000km road construction, a railway network of 2 400 kilometres, the Addis-Adama Express way and the flagship, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which will generate 6000MW electricity.
The Renaissance Dam plus the Gilgil Gibe III, under construction to generate 1890MW, will raise the national generating capacity to between 8000 and 10 000 MW, an ample energy to propel the industrial and manufacturing development. There are also ten new sugar factories under construction with a combine capital of US$4 billion. The textile and leather industries are expanding at a great speed.
It's in recognition to these advances that Ethiopia was awarded the hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa which took place in Addis Ababa from 9-11 May, 2012. The three days Forum had helped create more international awareness of the progress that the country is making. So the people of Ethiopia, more than ever, look forward to this year's celebration with much excitement and expectations.
But Ethiopia is not alone in this path of renaissance; much of the Africa continent is on the move. While Europe and America are going from crisis to crisis, most of the Africa economies are registering positive growth. There is projection that up to 2015, seven (including Ethiopia) of the ten fastest growing economies in the World will come from Africa.
There is even a talk of the African "Lion Economies" overtaking the Asian "Tiger Economies". Obviously not all African countries are developing at the same pace, but generally many experts believe Africa is "in a tipping point of economic advancement". As decolonisation came about due to the efforts of the African themselves, this renaissance belongs to the African peoples and governments, assisted by the partnership with China and the other Brics countries. The emergence of Brics (Brazil, Russia, India and China) has been a crucial factor in the current ascendance of the African Economies. Ethiopia as the only African Country never colonised had been in the forefront of the decolonisation struggle. First it inspired Africans in the continent and the Diaspora to reject and struggle against colonialism. Then, collectively through the OAU (Organisation of Africa Unity) and individually, gave assistance to African freedom fighters, including Zimbabweans and South Africans, who were languishing under the white minority rules at the time.
Today Africa's political liberation has been completed successfully resulting in 54 independent States. But the African peoples have remained poor amides plenty, and the next battle is rightfully against poverty. But this enemy is no less formidable; fighting it requires visionary leadership, mobilisation of resources and putting our political houses in order. Externally, Africa needs a fair deal from the International Community. Ethiopia has had the privilege to represent Africa in G8 meetings and Climate Change negotiations. My country takes this trust bestowed on it serious and has always pursued the best interest of the Continent. As during the decolonisation, Ethiopia has once again found itself at the forefront of the struggle against poverty and underdevelopment. It's a fight that the Country and for that matter, the Continent can't afford to lose, because it's will determine whether the sacrifice paid for the independent was worth it. As things stand Africa is on course to win it.
Long Live Ethiopia
Long Live Africa
Dr. Koang T. Dung is Ethiopian Ambassador to Zimbabwe