TOWARDS SUSTAINING OPTIMISTIC MOMENTUM IN ETHIOPIA
Solomon Damte, Management Consultant
*Solomon Damte, up on completion of his bachelor’s degree in Economics from AAU in 1992, served in the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) for eleven years to the level of Sr. Loan Analyst. In 2003, he joined Awash International Bank (AIB) at the post of Manager-Credit Analysis Division under the Bank’s Credit & Risk Management operations and worked for about three and half years. Since 2007, he is running a Management Consultancy Firm of his own (in AddisAbaba), Certified by the Ethiopian Management Institute. The writer can be reached on email@example.com.
There is an optimistic atmosphere across Ethiopia that encapsulated the policy panacea envisioned and diligently formulated by the late Meles Zenawi aimed at surmounting the chronic poverty which had long been the problem faced by the vast majority of its people.
Ethiopia has every reason to be optimistic on its future, despite the major loss of its late leader. The developmental policy package being implemented has enabled the country to record rapid growth, immense improvement in agricultural productivity, diversification of exports, and massive foreign private investments in core economic sectors including large-scale commercial farms, manufacturing, and mining activities. Huge infrastructure investments are executed, some in pipeline, to deliver a range of public goods: roads, dams, railways, schools, and health facilities. Moreover, the targeted support to micro and small enterprise development has uplifted the livelihood of many of the urban poor, while enhancing private sector employment. Overall, the improved economic performance attained over the last decade has been translated into commensurate reductions in poverty, and considerable progress towards ensuring food security.
The recent populace pledge for unwavering support has decisively enhanced the credibility and authority of the government to mobilize all stakeholders towards accelerating the nationally-owned economic growth and transformation, which in essence is a people-based process. The government’s concomitant initiative to foster its socio-political inclusiveness, as vowed by PM Hailemariam, fits neatly with the urge to tap the significance of the optimistic momentum and readiness for active participation in the ongoing endeavor. This apparently calls the need to craft the right mechanism (institutional set-up) to foster a more prolific consultative forums with all stakeholders including the private sector, researchers, Ethiopians in the Diaspora, civil societies, competing (opposition) political parties, and development partners. The resultant affluence of expertise and feedback emanating from the breadth of inclusiveness, while broadening proficiency and support base of the government, will also reinforce the scaffolding in the building process of democratic governance in the country. This in turn strengthens the government’s legitimacy in managing disputes and challenges emerging from the ongoing transformation process.
First and foremost, all stakeholders of Ethiopia’s Renaissance must comprehend with the natural fact that not everyone could be equally winner in the process of implementing the developmental socio-economic policies and strategies. But, not to leave some behind, the process may call all segments of the population to make short-term sacrifices for society’s long-term benefits, as evidenced in those successful Asian countries pursuing similar development path.
Nonetheless, one has to underline the need for a well-coordinated effort on the part of the government to minimize the effect of emerging adversities, and promptly respond with plausible measures of redress. The periodic performance-based evaluation meetings within the various government departments ought to induce accountability and reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks, which must be reflected in a more efficient service delivery. A mechanism should also be developed where the people could participate in the evaluation processes of those institutions directly linked with public services like Ethio Telecom, EPPCO, City Administration, and related authorities. The constructive public feedback is, thus, believed to serve as vital input for improvement.
The need to sustain the optimistic atmosphere in the country falls upon all stakeholders, though the situation apparently positions the government better than ever to hasten its delivery of the promised economic transformation. To this end, the tasks levied on the government may encompass, among others, optimizing the utilization of its communication networks including the public media, aimed at effectively informing stakeholders the particulars and progresses on those mega projects in core economic sectors (other than the Great Renaissance Dam), i.e. the current upshots in agro-industry, mining, manufacturing, and related sectors.
For instance, many are clueless as regards the status and huge economic significance upcoming from just two of such projects alone, namely the Tendaho Sugar Production Plant and the Potash mining Project (Afar Region). This Project, with a production capacity of 26,000 quintals of Sugar per day, will commence production before end of 2012. Out of the expected annual output of 600,000 quintals sugar, 50% will be for the export market and Ethiopia is set to share 2.5% of the world Sugar market over the coming four-five years. Moreover, it has a capacity to generate 70 MW power, as well as produce 63,000 KLPD ethanol.
On the Potash mining prospect in Afar region, as per the statistics from the Ministry of Mining, out of the five foreign firms actively involved at present, Allana Potash (of Canada) alone had tested and discovered 1.3 billion tons of potash deposits in the Dallol depression. It plans to produce and deliver 1-1.5 million tons of potash a year to the export market and production is to commence in 2013 with anticipated initial year export proceeds of USD 2 billion. Recent new drill results also show strong potential to further boost the potash resource. The resulting notable rise in the country’s forex reserve will markedly heal the balance of payments as well as address the prevailing disruptions in supply of foreign currency, among other socio-economic benefits.
Other new developments in the mining sector include proven reserve 624,000kg of gold found by Midroc and Australia’s Nyota combined, and other high grade finds by Stratex in the Afar region. The Ethiopian Mining Development Sh. Co., earlier this year has reported 2.5 million kg of tantalum in Kenticha. The recent Omo valley petroleum exploration by the British Tullow is also attested most promising.
The fairly large economic gains forthcoming from such investment ventures will definitely leapfrog Ethiopia towards the targeted goal of building a middle income, sustainable and inclusive economy. Therefore, a more systematic way of diffusing up-dated information to stakeholders on such progresses serves a great deal to uphold the optimistic momentum in the country.
Likewise, those intimately affiliated with such task, for shared benefit, like the private media community should also play their part in providing timely information to the public on unfolding realities on the socio-economic front. In fact, it is their ethical duty to be accountable in matters of releasing accurate information to the public. Sadly, with few exceptions, the private media are to a large extent indulged in (or serving as mere conduits of) reporting spurious defamations and trivial incidents. There are others who often grumble on the prevalence of some socio-economic deviations or adversities (that are either of short-term nature or of setbacks arising from the country’s inherent challenges), and disseminate all sorts of malicious and often ridiculous hearsays, in a futile attempt to provoke disorder in the country.
Today, this mean-spirited campaign is rebuffed in Ethiopia as the people have rallied behind the ongoing endeavor for the common goal of ensuring Ethiopia’s Renaissance.