Ethiopia Recovers From Derg Days

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Addis Ababa, 28 May 2014 (WIC) - The facts are clear. Ethiopia is rapidly recovering from the dreaded days of the Derg regime which was characterised by a reign of terror and economic decline.

The Derg, (basically a military junta), came to power after ousting, Haile Selassie I, the former Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974.

Between 1974 and 1991, the country was plagued by a host of both man-made and natural disasters that included war and famine. In the mid-1980s, the world took notice of the ordinary Ethiopian's plight in the most traumatic manner when famous muscians came together for the purpose of raising money to feed the hungry.

On May 28, 1991, the Derg, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, was finally toppled by a coalition of forces under the umbrella of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

A new Constitution was adopted in 1994 and a year later, multi-party elections took place which saw Meles Zenawi elected as the Prime Minister and Negasso Gidada as President.

As Ethiopia marks Derg Downfall Day this week, it is worth recognising some of the impressive achievements made during the past 23 years.

Ethiopia ranks among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging over 10% GDP growth over the last five years.

Ethiopia has already attained the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for child mortality and is on track for achieving them in gender parity in education, HIV/AIDS, and malaria.

Much of this economic success is directly due to the firm hand of the late Zenawi who is considered the main architect of the drive to modernise this country of 90 million people. Zenawi's determination is best reflected in the ambitious Renaissance hydro-electric dam project that ultimately will make Ethiopia a regional power exporter by the turn of the decade.

His successor, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is continuing along the same lines. The government's current five-year development plan (2010/11-2014/15), the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), is geared towards fostering broad-based development in a sustainable manner to achieve all the MDGs. The GTP also envisions a major leap in terms of not only economic structure and income levels, but also the level of social indicators.

The current annual GDP growth rate of 11% is being benchmarked as a base figure, but plans are to double the size of the economy by 2015, with GDP per capita expected to reach $698 by 2015.

The Addis government continues to be buffeted by calls from Western capitals and multilateral financial institutions to open up the domestic market. Presently much of the Ethiopian economy is dominated by State-run corporations with a presence in almost everything. However, the Ethiopian authorities have obviously decided to take a gradual approach, similar to how the Chinese did it in the mid-1980s and look where the Chinese are today. (East African Business Week,  Kampala)