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Ethiopia Already Is the ‘China of Africa’ – Bloomberg

They share fast growth, a strong national history and a sense that the future will be great.

Will Ethiopia become “the China of Africa”? The question often comes up in an economic context: Ethiopia’s growth rate is expected to be 8.5 percent this year, topping China’s projected 6.5 percent. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has averaged about 10 percent growth. Behind those flashy numbers, however, is an undervalued common feature: Both countries feel secure about their pasts and have a definite vision for their futures. Both countries believe that they are destined to be great.

Consider China first. The nation-state, as we know it today, has existed for several thousand years with some form of basic continuity. Most Chinese identify with the historical kingdoms and dynasties they study in school, and the tomb of Confucius in Qufu is a leading tourist attraction. Visitors go there to pay homage to a founder of the China they know.

This early history meant China was well-positioned to quickly build a modern and effective nation-state, once the introduction of post-Mao reforms boosted gross domestic product. That led to rapid gains in infrastructure and education, and paved the way for China to become one of the world’s two biggest economies. Along the way, the Chinese held to a strong vision that it deserved to be a great nation once again.

My visit to Ethiopia keeps reminding me of this basic picture. Ethiopia also had a relatively mature nation-state quite early, with the Aksumite Kingdom dating from the first century A.D. Subsequent regimes, through medieval times and beyond, exercised a fair amount of power. Most important, today’s Ethiopians see their country as a direct extension of these earlier political units. Some influential Ethiopians will claim to trace their lineage all the way to King Solomon of biblical times.

In other words, the process of organized, national-level governance has been underway for a long time. It was this relative strength of Ethiopian governance that allowed the territory to fend off colonialism, a rare achievement. It is also why, when you travel around the country, a lot of the basic cuisine doesn’t change much: Dishes are seen as national and not regional.

It is thus no surprise that once Ethiopia abandoned its 1970s communist ideology and put some basic reforms into place, its government was able to rise to the occasion. The infrastructure is remarkably good by regional standards, and the Ethiopian government is known for conducting a relatively successful industrial policy. The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines is run as a responsible business, it is becoming a major air power, and standards of service are high.

The Ethiopians I have interacted with express a remarkable degree of enthusiasm for their country and culture. Maybe that isn’t unusual in a rapidly growing nation, but I’ve been struck by how historically rooted these sentiments have been. Ethiopians are acutely aware of their past successes, including their role in biblical history. Like many Iranians, they think of themselves as a civilization and not just a country. They very self-consciously separate themselves from the broader strands of African history and culture. And, as in China, they hold an ideological belief that their country is destined to be great again.

China and Ethiopia intersect in yet another way, with the Chinese helping to build the place up. There are new and modern apartment buildings scattered around Addis Ababa, built by the Chinese, a light rail system in Addis that would look nice in any country, impressive dams for hydroelectric power, and a high-speed rail connection to Djibouti and the coast.

The pride of Ethiopians in their history and freedom from colonialism may help explain why the nation has accepted so much Chinese infrastructure involvement with little evidence of the angst that has plagued some other parts of Africa. The intuitive background assumption in Ethiopia is that foreigners may try to interfere, but the government won’t lose control. There are prominent statues in Addis Ababa celebrating how the Ethiopians drove out both the Italians and the British.

Just to be clear, Ethiopia is hardly a finished nation-state. There are festering disputes with Eritrea to the north, a place many Ethiopians strongly feel belongs to them. The southern and more tribal parts of the country are not always well integrated into the major commercial centers ruled by the highlanders, and there are clashes with the Oromia and Somali regions to the east. For those reasons, the national optimisms found in the better developed parts of the country are not found everywhere.

That said, if you are looking for a special place in Africa, Ethiopia may be your best bet. But to understand its recent success, you have to go beyond policy — it is also a matter of their history, their confidence and, above all, their ideas.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

-To contact the author of this story:
Tyler Cowen at [email protected]
-To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stacey Shick at [email protected]

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23 comments

  1. Its funny how a country that we provided food and financial help has outgrown us in such a little time. Its like Cameroon is frozen i time. No major development since the 70’s while ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda,Botswana etc are growing economically, socially nad politically like wild grass.

    Something is very wrong with Cameroonians!

  2. KAY,,,, A KEY element in the process of economic construction in all countries is,national will.without it,even the best vesionary leader will accomplish nothing.national will is the capacity of the masses accepting to work 18 hours a day to build a great nation that will protect and project their interest in all fronts.but in cameroon,it seems our people are still chained to the french and british.cameroon in reality does not even exist in collective consciences,not to talk of national identity from where the will imerge.the cameroonian seems to be more of a british or french half breed than african.under this condition competing with ethiopia,a country with a national unifying language,a writing system leading to a solid national identity base of collective construction.we have no chance

    • Bah Acho..
      I agree with you. There was a rumour in the past about a project the Cameroonian government was working on, to construct and implement a single language in Cameroon. A common unifying language that will amalgamate all the major ethnic languages in Cameroon. We will then learn english ,french, german osv as foreign languages.I don’t know if this was even considered in the first place, but i hope the parliament in the future vote for such a move.
      We also have the need to discourage tribal identity and languages and adhere to this new language without erasing our history and our origin. This will help alot in building that unity and sense of belonging to a single group of people rather than i am Bassa and you are Bakweri. We will all be Cameroonians,no tribalism,marginalisation.

      • JAY….the solution is very simple,adopting KISWAHILI already used in east africa as lingua franca.from a geo strategic stand point,any other decesion will not make sense.A language that takes us closer to other africans will open up new economic avenues for us while contributing to creat a common african identity.as for our regional languages,if ten books can be translated each year and instruction carried out in primary and nesury school directly in the mother tongue.it will prevent alienation.the only foriegn language that will be retained is english taught two times a week like a foreign language.comminucation between african children in english should be banned for the village language or KIZWAHILI.

  3. to futher illustrate my point.cameroonians give birth to children,and name them john,mary,victoria,marie,solanche,even mohamed,ibrahim,etc.we seem to identify with anything except what we really are.having betrayed our ancestors by turning our back on them.it is logical that we stagnate economically while others advance.in oder to build a country,you must like it,in oder to like it you must identify with it.we can not hold on slave identities that negate our humanity while talking about economic development.nigeria has a two hundred and fifty million population that we can satisfy building a strong industry.instead of making SWAHILI as national language.we are killing each other along lines imposed on by others.

    • I disagree with u. When we look at the private sector in the english part in Cameroon there has been significant growth. Our problem in Cameroon is bad governance. The many visionless politicians in Cameroon do think only how to make themselves wealthy. In countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia, we do have corrupt politicians but they think about the future of their countries.
      I don’t share your view that we must speak one language and english and french should be banned. These languages belong to our history! Besides how are going to teach my aunts and uncles in the village this new language?

      • OLAF,,,,how many manufacting companies do we have in BALI,BUEA,KUMBA,OR MBENGWI employing just one hundred people?absolutely non,considering the empty houses people build left and right without a single manufactuing industry to creat wealth,employ people and draw hard currency to the country as economic growth is a tragic mistake.it is very easy to blame politicians,but no country has ever been industrialized by politicians.economic prosperity is mobilizing the masses to work long hours to creat wealth for collective good.it has nothing to do with politicians.no politician is holding people in NJAH-ETU from growing corn,drying and transforming it to baking flour,beer and animal feed.it is in the process of transformation that actual wealth is created and people employed.

        • we were miseducated in alien languages that creat intellectualli infirior humans to behave like a herd of sheep goats going to drink water at miday in the month of january in NJAH-ETU.the result is that many of us are incapable of using their brains objectively.when an african says he does not see any reason why we should speak a single african language connecting us to each other.it becomes clear he or she is not current with the geo political evolution of the world.the formation of massive geo political entities base on a commo language;spirituality,etc,is reality.chinese speak chinese,indians hindi,arabs arabic.thinking that we shall compete economically with this groups while remaining devided by alien languages is not intelligent at all.infact it is losing war before fighting.

        • for example how will children born in NJAH ETU learn KISWAHILI without being cut from their mother tongue?they will start aquiring elimentary knowledge in primary school in their mother tongue while learning KISWAHILI as language of higher education.once in secondery school they will move on to study in KISWAHILI.by then the process of their mental formation is complete in the mother tongue.they will never forget the mother tongue guaranteeing its existence.english and french is part of our history but not METTA,BALI or KISAWHILI?this is the result of accepting an assimilationist system.infact a law should be passed stipulating that no child should be registered in school with a non african name.we can even go futher and adopt the ethiopian writing system.

  4. Never thought I will ever agree with you but I got to be honest I give to you on this one bah.Apparently you heard my advice and let go of that fat Aryan woman

    • CAVANI,,,,you think like a christian or muslim who have been indoctrinated not to use their brains for a minute.do you really think i am here to agree with you?what i write is an expression of my inner thoughts.since we do not feed our minds with the same information.expecting to agree with me is like telling bereh wereh ngang(christians)to agree with bereh wereh ngang meh labou(muslims).

  5. Paul Biya is BrainDeath and Cameroonians just keep clapping and sending motions of support!

  6. **** LRC- Already Is the ‘FRANCE of Africa’ – MVOMEKA ****

    Pius Njawé(RIP) of Le Messager once wrote that ” The interference of the Bolloré group in the political life of Cameroon is no doubt. It’s a sort of state in the state, Bolloré is a perfect illustration of Françafrique”
    Mr Njawe was perfectly correct. Biya has sold Cameroon to Bollore

    1. Camrail railway company since 1999 (until 2034),
    2. concession of the container terminal of the port of Douala in 2005 (until 2020).
    3. Bolloré Africa Logistics since September 2008, is present in the economic capital Douala, in the political capital of Yaoundé and in the north of Garoua
    4. Bollore is a shareholder of Alucam in Edea
    5. Bolloreis in charge of the logistics of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline
    6. Bollore participates in the “plundering”

    • 7. Bollore manages a wooden park thanks to its Society of Wooden Parks of Cameroon (SEPBC)
      8.Bollore also controls huge plantations, either directly via Safacam, which operates 8,400 hectares of oil palms and rubber trees, or indirectly via the Belgian company Socfinal, which manages 31,000 hectares of oil palms in the country. ).
      9. Bolloré’s interference in the internal affairs of Cameroon is an open secret
      10. Bollore is in charge of the Autonomous Port of Douala (PAD),
      11. Bollore is in charge of the Autonomous Port of Kribi (PAD).
      12. etc, etc

      No wonder lawyers of the ESEKA train accident dragged Bollore before a French court. In Cameroon, they have no Chance since the puppet of Bollore, Biya, will meddle with the judgement.

  7. @ Mvomeka aka Anglophone. Is Erythria doing better than Ethiopia?
    @ John Dinga. Kamerun cycling tour is GOING ON & JUST LEFT LIMBE. I thought you said ” the GOK cannot organize it due to treasury issues caused by you terrorists”. Apart from that it entered Limbe without any problem. Keep on encouraging more trolls to help us train our soldiers. This conflict IS A BLESSING TO KAMERUN. It’s a reason to buy more weapon & train real officers.

  8. „One and indivisible“ LRC has the proven track record of burning down houses and even complete villages whenever and wherever they come under attack by “secessionists”.
    According to Goebbels Tchiroma, the 27 persons killed in Menka were “terrorists and secessionists”.

    However, the greatest paradox that defies all human logic is that the BIR NOT burn down the hotel or even the village in which the “terrorists and secessionists” were found.

    Question:

    Why did the BIR not burn down the hotel or the village ??????

    Answer:

    The BIR did NOT burn down the hotel or the village because the persons murdered in cold blood were INNOCENT children and NOT “terrorists and secessionists”.

    • This war crime was masterminded by ex-convict Atangana, aided and abetted by the Fon of Menka and the PDM owner of the hotel.
      Ex-convict Atangana is from this area and wanted to prove to Biya that he will stop at nothing to keep Ndian oil under the control of Biya. He was, therefore, prepared to sacrifice his people to please Dictator Biya.

      Of course, Biya will surely reward ex-convict Atangana for a “job” well executed by instructing Rene Sadi to handover the Mercedes500 to that ex-convict. He might even be appointed the next toothless HEAD OF GOVERNMENT in order to “appease” the Anglophone and maybe stop the present UNSTOPPABLE momentum

      THE WAR CONTINUES…….

    • **** BIODATA ATANGA NJI ****

      He is a MURDERER in his own right. He murdered his biological kid sister in cold blood
      He is a CRIMINAL in his own right. He spent years behind bars in New Bell prison
      He is a SCHOOL DROPOUT in his own right. He completed only form three in St Bedes college
      He is a TRAITOR in his own right. He betrayed his own people in exchange for marginal and ephemeral favours from LRC
      He is LUCIFER IN THE FLESH in his own right. That is why Biya appointed him to succeed Forchive
      He is a SPY in his own right. That is the reason he is feared by ALL Anglophone Ministers, elites, parliamentarians, traditional rulers and civil servants. They know that he is the eye and ear of Dictator Biya

  9. @ Mvomeka. Have Your Source Told You That The BIR Took Part In This Operation?Keep On Misleading Youths. One Day, They’ll Come After You. FYI, No More Ghost Town In That Part Of The Triangle & Soon You’ll See Self Defence Groups In Each Village, Working With Goverment (Like In The North) Against You (Terrorists). The War Goes On, No Dialogue.

  10. Apologists of the Junta who boast on this forum that NO DIALOGUE are 100% correct.
    It is 100% true that the time for dialogue is already OVER.

    Dialogue takes place only in the absence of war. During wartime, the belligerents can only NEGOTIATE
    “One and indivisible” LRC can now only NEGOTIATE with SC WARLORDS or continue to fight the war until victory.

    • Believe me or not, no person in his right senses can think that self-defense groups or even the BIR can stop the present UNSTOPPABLE momentum. That is wishful thinking. Nothing more nothing less.

      DICTATOR BIYA’S SH*THOLE UNWINNABLE WAR CONTINUES….

    • 1. Apologists of the junta are boasting that NO DIALOGUE
      2. The Junta is always sending the commission on bilingualism to “dialogue” with Southern Cameroonians
      3. “Qui trompe qui à la fin?”

      THE WAR CONTINUES…..