Two years ago I wrote an article on the economic potential of Ethiopia as I was interested by the country’s ancient roots in the world. For me, Ethiopia has had a long and proud history. Home to the adored Queen of Sheba and the only African nation to resist colonisation, Ethiopia saw its fate change dramatically due to the cruel conquerors: War and Famine. If you were to travel back in time 30 years ago chances are you would hear about the “biblical famine” that hit Ethiopia. Civil war and political turmoil had gripped the country and catalysed the impact of the famine.
Yet despite all this, Ethiopia began to “roar” some 30 years later, becoming what journalists and economists have dubbed as one of “Africa’s’ lions”, and with good reason. The country had grown from strength to strength with an increase in the number of dollar millionaires with reportedly 1,300 in 2007 to 2,700 in 2013 and a massive 93% growth in GDP. One of the main reasons for the growth stems from the economic reforms and privatisation of state-owned businesses by the post-revolution government. This was amplified alongside a strong agriculture sector, which accounted for around 46% of her GDP and 85% of jobs. Much of the growth is credited to the Ethiopian government’s ‘Growth and Transformation Plan’, which has, and further plans to increase the amount of irrigated land, aide small farmers and help families which lack basic necessities.
However it was in 2016 that Ethiopia’s economic rise was threatened as a result of mass protests, primarily by the Oromo people, due to land infringement and mass-inequalities. To understand the conflict, it is important to first grasp the wide scale political, social and economic disparities in the country. There are some 80 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia with the Amhara (36%) and the Oromo (34%) being the largest. However, the Tigray, who only encompass 6% of the population, hold all the senior positions within government.
The protests initially started over the government’s plan to extend Addis Abba’s (the Capital of Ethiopia) administrative and territorial boundaries into neighbouring Oromo settlements. As of October 2016, some 500+ people have been killed in an extreme crackdown by security forces and over a 1,000 protesters have been detained. The government however has not accepted responsibility for any of these crimes, and instead has falsely accused Egypt and Eretria of stirring conflict in the land. Nonetheless, this has done nothing to quell the protests, and has instead seen foreign-owned textiles and flower farming factories attacked. If Ethiopia is to reach its true potential, it must make peace with its own citizens.