The penetration of western concepts of education, science and technology, which was very fast in other third world countries like India and South Korea, is very slow over here. Ethiopia is highly underdeveloped and one of the poorest country on this world because of its geographic position, natural circumstances and human mistakes. Ethiopia is the land where the oldest human ancestors, dating back to almost 5 million years, used to exist.
Today, it is a land-locked nation surrounded by countries like Sudan n the west, Kenya in the south, Somalia in the east and Eritrea in the north. With a total land area of about 43. 5 thousand square miles, it has a population of about 75 million people, in 2005. Islam is the major religion followed by 45 to 50 percent of the population which has almost 9 ethnic groups and speaks more than 75 different languages. The literacy rate was 43% in 2003 and the GDP stood at $ 60. 34 billion.
The per capita income was a meager $ 80 in 2005. Only 11% of the total land is arable, and Platinum, Potash, Copper, natural gas and some traces of gold are its natural resources. Its exports touched $ 612 million in 2005 against a huge import bill of $ 2. 72 billion in 2005. The major industries of Ethiopia are cement, textiles, beverages, chemicals, and metal processing. In telecommunications, Ethiopia has 435 thousand main line users, followed by about 97 thousand cell phone users and 75 thousand internet users in 2003.
The total rail network was of 681 kms in 2004, and the total distance covered by the highways was bout 33 thousand kms. in 2002 ( Ethiopia ) The progress of any nation is dependent on its agriculture, industrial output, infrastructure development and education. A strong economy is the biggest sign of a healthy nation. The current status of Ethiopia, as revealed by the figures in the above paragraph, is really poor. This necessitates investigation of the recent past history of the nation, to judge upon the parameters which contributed to the current state of affairs.
The recent history of Ethiopia reveals the political transition from a military uthoritarian rule to a democratic republic nation. It tells about the devastating famines and the wars with Eritrea and the prolonged border dispute with it, and the military confrontation with Somalia. In addition, Ethiopia witnessed frequent rebellions from within the country, demonstrating the high level of dissatisfaction of the people with the military ruler and his policies. The famine, the wars and the rebellions have resulted in loss of lives for millions of Ethiopians.
This is the darkest spot on the recent history of Ethiopia. The major events in the recent history are briefly described in the following paragraphs. Famines : Ethiopia witnessed two devastating famines in 1984 and 2002. BBC cites the words of Prime Minister Zenavi, If the famine of 1984 was a nightmare, then this will be too ghastly to contemplate. The 1984 famine killed nearly one million people. Another famine, much worse than that of 1984, struck the nation in 2002.
Zenavi revealed to the BBC that nearly 15 million people faced starvation, and the international Red cross estimated that $ 11 million were needed to aid the suffering people of Ethiopia in 2002. This BBC report also cites Georgia Shaver, the World Food Program Director in Ethiopia, saying that about 14 million people needed food across the six countries in South Africa, the same number needs food in just one country, Ethiopia. Prime Minister Zenavi admits that they do not have any system to store the rain water.
In the same report, BBC also cites Andrew Pendleton, Advisor to Christian aid to Ethiopia, s saying that Ethiopias continuing foreign debt, which is almost 10% of the states revenues, is the biggest hurdle in its efforts to cope with the famines. ( Massive famine stalks Ethiopia) Ethiopia and Eritrea have been fighting for the past many decades. Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after a long guerrilla warfare. At this juncture, the border lines were never identified, marked or mapped.
The dispute about the border resulted in frequent clashes, which heightened in 1998, resulting into a full fledged war or almost two years, till a peace treaty was signed between the two nations in 2000. This long, armed confrontation has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on wither side, and ruptured the economies of both the nations. Almost 40 thousand soldiers have been killed in this war and armed troops to the number of 300 thousand remain engaged in guarding the 800 km border.
All the civilians residing in the affected areas have fled, and both the armies are guarding empty villages. ( Pike John ) On the other hand, the warring factions of the Islamic fundamentalists have drawn attention from both Ethiopia and Eritrea. While Eritrea supports one faction with arms and troops, with an intention to prompt them to attack Ethiopia from its south east border, Ethiopia supports the other faction in all ways possible, to counter the move. (Pike John ) Such never ending warlike situations have taken a very heavy toll on the development of Ethiopia.
The political status of Ethiopia has also undergone a sea-change in the recent past. In 1974, the Emperor was overthrown by a military coup, and Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam became countrys ruler in 1977. The policies of the military rule were widely unpopular and many rebellion groups became active in the country. These forces formed a coalition known as Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which took control over the capital city of Addis Ababa on 28 May 1991.
A transitional charter was approved in 1991, and since then Ethiopia is a democratic republic country. (History, politics, administration) The events of the recent history of Ethiopia prove that the country is hit with chronic problems, and options before the government are very few. The complexity of the situation created by these problems is so complex that a permanent solution seems impossible. The government is faced with political, military, geographic, and economic problems, the magnitude of which is mind blowing.
The situation is not only tough, but seems to be so grim that only downward trend can be perceived with little or no hopes or improvement for a better future. The multiple characteristics of the problems, has almost ruptured the nation. It is beyond the scope of the government to handle the situation single handed. Ethiopia has been lucky to get the required aid from foreign countries, and international agencies.
As a matter of fact, Ethiopia has been able to counter the problems , largely due to these foreign aid, which very often is generous also. Many agencies are functional in Ethiopia to help the local government and the local population. The military rule during the 1970s and 80s tried to revamp the economy by declaring radical measures. These measures vested total control of the economy in the hands of the state. Nationalization of all major industrial, financial and commercial companies took place in 1975. Villagization was one more, most unpopular directive from the military ruler, under which people were compelled to move away from highland to lowland areas. The policy had to be abandoned in 1986. The democratic rulers were more sensible in their approach. Ever since it came into existence in 1991, it has been facing many serious challenges. Its first success is in offering political stability and forming strategies which appeal to the foreign help agencies.
While no tangible results are seen at the ground level so far, the democratic government has demonstrated its resolve to fight with the chronic problems, and pursue the helping hands to get help. Today, many agencies are working in close co-ordination with the government to help implement the various strategies. The economy is still very ragile, and weak, the condition of people is still miserable, but the efforts put in by the government and the foreign agencies in the recent years, is likely to bring better results in the future.
For example the schools and colleges established in the last ten years will present educated adults to the society after another 10 or 20 years. Strong development is not seen in any area not because the government or the people lack the will, but because of the enormity and complexity of the situation and the lack of resources to ackle them. The areas that need to be addressed on topmost priority are :
1. Food : Ethiopia needs to feed the millions of hungry people 2. Increase agricultural output: maybe by improvement in ways of farming. 3. Health care : Increase health care facilities to reach the remote areas also. 4. Water and irrigation : Water is a scarce commodity here, and technological advances have to be brought in to preserve water and utilize it appropriately. This is a very crucial sector which will help in fighting the devastating famines. 5. Reduction of poverty: In 2003, about 44% of the estimated 67 million people of Ethiopia lived below the poverty line, according to a World Bank report. ( Ethiopia) 6. Strengthen the economy: By devising and effective implementation of schemes to increase the GDP and the Per Capita Income and decrease the huge gap between export and import bills.
These are the areas where the state has been lacking, to a great extent. It has only made a beginning by devising plans and schemes in conjunction with foreign agencies. The role of the state in the development of Ethiopia is very limited, because the state treasury is always burdened with other issues, and has little or nothing to spare for the development projects.
The UNDP example, cited below proves this point. One of the many sectors in which UNDP works in Ethiopia is poverty reduction. Agricultural development is a priority area in this program. It targets at : 1. Promotion of access and utilization of technological improvements in farming and up gradation of facilities for result oriented research. 2. Use of ICT for agricultural information management by establishing connectivity between federal and regional states. 3. Implement use of small scale irrigation. 4. Provide service to rural communities by effective implementation of small scale finance institutions. The following results were achieved : 1. Nearly 10,000 farmers and 4,000 farmers were trained on how to use the technologies in farming. On a national scale nearly 3. million farmers benefited and the agricultural yields were almost doubled in areas where the rainfall was adequate. 2. A study on national computerized agricultural system was conducted and its pilot phase is started in 2001.
This is likely to benefit the sector by giving timely information. ( Agricultural development program ) Ethiopia faces many impediments which tend to strangle its development. In an interview, Michael Glantz, a political scientist working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says that if he had the liberty to add one more word to the title page of Time magazine issue on Africa in 1984, he would say, coup, corruption , onflict and climate, are the main obstacles to development in Africa. Glantz Michael ) The same holds true for Ethiopia also. She is land locked in the horns of the African continent with two chronic enemies as her neighbors. Only 45% of the total land is arable and a meager 3% is irrigated. She does not have a port of her own, and the rainfall is totally unpredictable. There is no access to the vast seas or oceans.
She is connected to the Red Sea through a neighboring country. The geographic position and the climate of Ethiopia is surely one of he biggest obstacles to the development of Ethiopia. Geography) Military aggressions have hit Ethiopia very hard. Ethiopia has to face it on two fronts, Eritrea in north and Somalia in south. Prolonged warfare with these nations, for many decades, has made a severe dent in the economy of the nation. Perhaps, this dent is permanent and irreparable. The country is already under immense debt pressure and there seems to be no end to the disputes with Eritrea. A report of International Monetary Fund suggests that if Ethiopia needs to maintain a growth level of 7% .
Given the current state of affairs, this report raises serious doubts whether this is an achievable target or not. ( Andrews David, Erasmus Lodewyk & Powell Robert ) Human mistakes, especially by the political leadership account for the third obstacle to the development of Ethiopia. The denial to accept the peace treaty with Eritrea, after signing it, is one example which proves this point. ( Ethiopia and Eritrea) All the attention, energy and finances have been focused on fights, coups and confrontations.
The leadership as not advocated the uselessness of war, and concentrating on socio-economic issues instead. Conclusively it can be said that Ethiopia is cursed country in true sense, facing problems of famines, military confrontations geographic conditions and natural forces, which are colossal. This has already crippled the nations economy, and there seems to be no end to the misery of this nation. Elevation of Ethiopia from one of the poorest country to a middle level economy seems an uphill task. Will she be able to perform this task? Only time can tell.