By Yonas Biru
This article is triggered by comments on my article titled “The US-Africa Leaders’ Summit: Is Ethiopia Ready for Such an Opportunity?” My strong criticism of the idiotic #NoMore movement and People-to-People’s ፍሬ ከርስኪ West-bashing ወሮ ወሸባየ conferences are all enabling PM Abiy to stay the course of his failed governance.
The #NoMore and People-to-People souls think their zero-calorie love to their country is a substitute for knowledge. Their problem is that they are prisoners of a 17-century mindset trying to assert themselves in the 21st century. Unbeknown to them they are a cross between Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (17th Century) and Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose (19th Century). Part of the purpose of my articles are to introduce them to their 17th and 19th Century caricatures. It is the case of past fictions mimicking future realities. God had reason when he invented the likes of Miguel de Cervantes, Nikolai Gogol, and Franz Kafka. Inspired by them, my hard-hitting articles are necessary to help shake the Ethiopian diaspora out of its low-level equilibrium trap in the geopolitical landscape.
ከተዳፈርኩ ወይም ካጠፋሁ ይቅርታ እጠይቃለሁ. Having cleared that out of the way, here are some of the relevant comments on my above-noted article.
On Twitter – ራዩማ wrote “I read your article with curiosity until you ruined it. You could’ve used it for genuine engagement than self-aggrandizement, bitterness, and bashing the diaspora.”
On Facebook – Amde Brahan wrote “Another great piece ruined by gratuitously insulting the ‘Ethiopian intellectual class’. If you remove just three paragraphs, this would be a compelling read for the target audience.”
On Facebook – Wessenu Areda wrote: “You need to understand how things work in Ethiopia and improve the way you communicate with the Ethiopian authorities. Be serious, respectful and try to make things confidential. Don’t spray what you communicated with the government on social media. Always remember, we are Ethiopians.”
Offline – A friend wrote “Another interesting piece. You started to write about whether Eth/Africa is ready for the Summit. Along the way, you veered off to show how the US is much better than China and Russia and on to your favorite subjects; how PM isn’t listening, the diaspora, #NoMore,
… I think the Article could have been much more effective if it was forward looking to help in the preparation for the Summit. It will have better appeal to policy makers if they care to take advice.”
All four assume: (1) my approach is repelling rather than appealing to policy makers, (2) my strong criticism of the #NoMore clan is neither justified nor productive. Let me explain.
I have come to the conclusion that PM Abiy has no interest in listening to expert advice. He has reduced the nation to his pet project. If it is not his pet project, he will not accept it no matter how important the proposal may be in advancing Ethiopia or even in supporting his own reform. The fact of the matter is that he may be visionary, but he lacks experience to govern a country with multilayer existential problems. Even if he had experience no one person can run a country by himself. He is driving the nation to a slow-motion irrelevance in geopolitics and geo-economics.
My effort is to expose this problem, hoping people will start realizing the danger in his messianic view of himself as a divinely installed leader and start creating public pressure for change. It may take time before my articles get traction and reach a point of critical mass to make a difference. My blunt style of writing is common in the US. But the diaspora clan with 50 years of life in the US sees
it as a violation of the Ten Commandments. Blame their 17th century mindset.
For those who have followed me since June 2018, they know I was a strong supporter of PM Abiy. I still am on fundamental issues. I still believe he is a visionary leader. Visionary leaders are transformative. My problem is his poor (correction very poor – actually very-very-very poor) governance.
In a society that is accustomed to 100% loyalty or 100% blind opposition, my constructive criticism of the PM along with rational support is seen as an affront to our national psychology and presumably spiritual culture.
Before I decided to be a public critic of the PM, I tried to work with the administration through proper channels, making it clear that I have no interest in getting government position or pay. I noted repeatedly that I do not seek government position and would not accept it if offered. This has not stopped me from spending time and resources to contribute my share to my country.
I was involved in six diaspora advisory groups. I was chair or co-chair of five of them. I was closely working with People in the PM’s Office, the Deputy PM’s office, and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and two of the three Ethiopian Ambassadors appointed by the PM. One of the advisory group’s executive committees (on Covid) was meeting six times a week for two hours. On Thursdays the entire group of 22 medical doctors and 3 non-medical doctors met for four hours. Ethiopian
intellectuals are ready to give their time to their motherland. The PM was not interested.
For example, the Covid Council sent a report to the PM. I learned from a reliable source that his reaction was “we do not need expert advice. Tell them to send money.” That week I resigned. The PM sees the diaspora as ATM machine or as street dancers of the #NoMore genre. That is why our ambassadors have been reduced to Go-Fund-Me coordinators and #NoMore cheerleaders.
The lesson I got is that everything is decided by the PM, and he has absolutely no value to inputs originating from intellectuals and subject line experts. For example, Ato Gedu was very supportive of two of the five proposals we put forth when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ato Demeke was very supportive of one of our proposals. But all were killed because they did not get green light form the PM.
Allow me to Share two concrete examples. Both were supported and promoted by Ato Gedu. 1. THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF AFRICA
As I noted in my blog on Biden’s forthcoming US-Africa Summit, one of the seven priority agenda items is to “work collaboratively to strengthen regional and global health security.”
After the onset of the COVID pandemic, the United States Congress introduced the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act of 2020. The Act appropriated $3 billion to advance the Global Health Strategy of the United States overseas. The Primary objectives of the Act include to:
• provide foreign assistance for global health security to strengthen and sustain resilient health systems and supply chains with the resources, capacity, and personnel required to prevent, detect, mitigate, and respond to infectious disease threats before they become pandemics; and
• reduce long-term reliance upon US foreign assistance for global health security by promoting partner country ownership, improved domestic resource mobilization, co-financing, and appropriate national budget allocations or global health security and pandemic preparedness.
A team of seven Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans that I had the privilege of chairing prepared a proposal to establish the American University of Africa in Ethiopia. The proposal leveraged on two pillars of the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act: funding from the $3 billion appropriation and partnership with American Universities with global repute in public health.
The Proposal sought to establish a world-class public health University in Addis with the aim of increasing Africa’s pandemic preparedness; containing an emerging pandemic; and managing and thwarting pandemic outbreaks. The proposed university aimed to go beyond strengthening the
early warning system of novel viruses and public health crisis prevention and management. It aspired to set a new standard for African universities, breaking through historical barriers and adopting innovative solutions.
The four core pillars of the university included: The School of Public Health; Leadership and Management Institute; Applied Science and Digital Technology Institute; and Institute for African Economic Transformation.
Ethiopia stood to gain a lot by hosting such a world class university. The proposal highlighted the University “will bring the prestige associated with a regional flagship university and its spillover effect will uplift the nation’s universities and colleges and make Ethiopia the Mecca of Africa’s higher learning.”
The Association of Black American Ambassadors (ABAA) supported the proposal in a letter to Secretary Michael Pompeo, stating “The ABAA believes the US should seriously seize this opportunity to help finance, shape and participate in creating the American University of Africa.” Several prominent American universities expressed strong interest in joining the effort as partners.
The initiative’s Board consisted of 25 reputable experts, including two former US Ambassadors to Ethiopia, a former US Congressman, a Former Canadian Parliamentarian, several American University Presidents, Executive Vice Presidents, Deans and globally recognized Public Health Professors, CEOs of global health programs, and the Director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Having garnered broad support in the US, the Diaspora group presented the proposal to the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Science and Higher Education, and the CEO of Land Bank and Development Corporation. The two Ministers unequivocally endorsed the proposal as a critical initiative for the country. The CEO of Land Bank and Development Corporation saw it as vital to Ethiopia’s interest and worthy of a land grant.
The next two critical steps were getting the support and approval of the Prime Minister, followed by preparing a joint proposal by the diaspora group and a partnering American university to seek financial support from the $3 billion US appropriation. The Prime Minister’s full support was required to receive substantial financial support from the US. Ato Gedu was very enthusiastic about
it. After he left the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we started working with Ato Demek’s office. They were just as enthusiastic. His office facilitated our meeting with other government officials to garner support.
The proposal was submitted to the Prime Minister before the war broke out with the full and unequivocal support of all relevant cabinet level officials in Ethiopia. It has been over two years. No response. This is the problem when everything must be decided by the Prime Minister and not
even the full endorsement of two prominent members of the Council of Ministers carries weight to get the project going.
2. MARSHALL PLAN FOR AFRICA
As I have presented in the US-Africa Summit blog, Africa’s development has become a strategic imperative for the West. Both the US and EU are determined to push direct foreign investment to Africa, triggered by Trump’s (1) US Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act enacted into law in 2018, and (2) EU’s New Africa Strategy. Consistent to this paradigm
shift, one of the seven priority items on the US-Africa Summit agenda is to “Foster new economic engagement” between the US and Africa.
In December 2019, I published an opinion piece in Addis Fortune titled “Marshall Plan for Africa Now or Doom by 2050.” Within days, I got a call from the Egyptian Embassy in Washington to ask me if I was interested in broadening the proposal to include the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Our government showed no interest. I have publicly shared this information on my Facebook at the time.
In August 2020, US Congressman Dave Brat (Currently Dean of Liberty University School of Business) and I co-authored a peace in Addis fortune proposing a Marshall Plan for Africa. In April 2021, Liberty University organized an Africa Summit to promote the idea. The Keynote speaker was Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State and the Summit was attended by African Presidents and Vice Presidents via zoom. Our letter inviting PM Abiy to deliver a Keynote representing African leaders was not even answered.
The University had its second Summit in July 2022 attended by 500 CEOs from across the US and African leaders. Part of this effort is to campaign for a global moral voice for Africa. The global moral voice aims to promote a Marshall Plan for Africa. The Marshall Plan for Africa has four elements:
1. Shifting the West’s Supply Chains from China to Africa –
2. Stopping Illicit Capital Flight Out of Africa –
3. Increasing Foreign Direct Investment Africa
4. Making Technology and Innovation a Strategic Priority for Africa
Since Liberty University is not a lobbying agency, it cannot lobby on behalf of Africa, but it can facilitate by bringing Conservative Senators and Congressmen/women and African governments. Therefore, we tried to get African Ambassadors to file a formal request to the US government to increase FDI in Africa. The proposal has two components: (a) US and Europe give tax exemption to US and European corporation to invest in Africa; and (b) US SEC give exemption to the African Diaspora to make it easier to invest in their birth land.
On May 18, Liberty University hosted a luncheon at Omni Hotel in DC to encourage African Ambassadors to work together to file a formal request. At the luncheon, Congressman Dave Brat and I gave brief talks to encourage Africans to take part. I tried to encourage our Embassy. Though they attended the luncheon they did not bother to attend the July Summit.
The African diplomatic corps in Washington said they cannot file a formal request without instruction from their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs. We encouraged them to get authorization from their respective countries. All to no avail.
My proposal to establish a committee to develop Ethiopia’s strategy to benefit in the supply chain shift from China was ignored by the PM. My continued effort to get our Embassy to be involved in the Liberty University initiative is ignored.
In the meantime, the #NoMore clowns are peddling their paranoiac view of the West as the enemy of Ethiopia. In the meantime, our Embassy, People-to-People emissaries and Washington DC area Task Forces are focusing on their ስሙኒ ለቀማ Go-Fund-Me enterprises to fill the gap in international aid and foreign direct investment. In a good day, they collect $20,000.
Ethiopia should learn from India. In the early 1980’s, India aspired to dominate the global software market. With help from Indian Diaspora, they developed strategy and worked closely together and succeeded. Today, it aspires to be “the global nerve center of multinational supply chains in the post-Covid-19 world.” To achieve this goal, India appointed Deepak Bagla a capable CEO to lead Invest India – the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency.
Bagal’s bio reads he has a professional career of over three decades, with the World Bank, Citibank, and Private Equity having responsibilities across Europe, Africa and Asia. He is the President of the Geneva based World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies with membership of 105 countries. He has a bachelor’s degree with Honors in Economics from St Stephens College, New Delhi and a dual master’s in international diplomacy, and international trade and finance from The School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington DC.
The international media took note with such headlines as “India Looks to Lure More Than 1,000 U.S. Companies Out of China” and “How India can seize the global supply chain opportunity in the post COVID-19 era.” For example, a report titled “Indian Lobbying and Its Influence in US Decision Making” highlighted India’s effort “to shift toward a focus on economic partnerships in the post Cold War era.” The report took note of the role Indian Americans play in the effort.
US and India have serious diplomatic rows, but they find it possible to tolerate each other because India has capable diplomatic emissaries and enlightened diaspora. You will not see the Indian diaspora making fools of themselves እንጣጥ እንጣጥing and እንዘጭ እንቦጪing on the streets of Washington.
India is not the only country Ethiopia can learn from. I randomly checked Uganda’s, Kenya’s and Ghana’s Investment Commission CEOs. They are all experienced people with multiple degrees. For example, Uganda’s CEO, Rubert Mukiza’s credentials include education at Oxford University (UK), University of Kent (UK) and Makerere University (Uganda). He has worked as Deputy Director at UN-ECA, Head of UN Coordination at UNDP, and as a Director of Acadia Energy in Hong Kong, among other professional experiences. They have well developed strategy and capable officials to attract investment.
In contrast, PM Abiy, who is anti-intellectual and anti-subject matter expert, appoints a 27-year-old young lady as the CEO of Ethiopia’s Investment Commission. She has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and no experience in diplomacy or international finance.
No doubt that as part of the US-Africa Summit, Ethiopia will be among the primary beneficiaries of the paradigm shift in the Wests strategy for Africa’s development. What the PM and the #NoMore and People-to-People 17th century quixotic warriors fail to understand is that taking proactive steps is critical to scale up and maximize the benefit. Ethiopia should not sit and wait for foreigners to invest because the $20,000 and $40,000 our Go-Fund-Me enthusiasts peddle will not do the trick.
In short let me conclude candidly. First, የዲያስፖራ ልሂቃን አና ሊቀ ሊቃውንት በየመንገዱ አንደለቀስተኛ ነጠላቸውን ወገባቸው ላይ አስረው መፈክር እያወረዱ እንጣት እንጣት እያሉ መጃጃሉን ትተው ጠቅላይ ሚንስትሩን አገዛዛቸውን እንዲያሻሽሉ ግፊ ቢያደርጉ ይሻላቸዋል።
Second, I have no doubt that if the PM was running his own private enterprise, he would not appoint the kind of people he is appointing in leadership position to run Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not his pet project. He needs to involve all able-bodied people of Ethiopian origin at home and abroad. The two examples I provided in this article are what I was involved in. I know many other experts have tried to help their country in their fields of study from technology to since and from economics to finance. The PM needs to appoint capable people or at least mediocre people. What he is appointing are people of sub mediocre repute. He also needs to seek advice and council from capable people. He has taken Ethiopia decades backward in its diplomatic endeavor. Time to change.
Once again, ከተዳፈርኩ ወይም ካጠፋሁ ይቅርታ እጠይቃለሁ::
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All Dr. Yonas’s rant tells us is that the fellow is incorrigible in his deeply held beliefs. I have come to designate him as an academic tyrant!
Whilst I almost fully agree with the problems you cited & appreciate the efforts you make, I remain perplexed why a man of your education and experience caliber fails to understand antagonizing everybody on his way to being constructive will not take him far. It will be your loss as it will be Ethiopia’s.
Did WB and its White Supremacist West [WSW] render you devoid of Basic Deductive Logic? Is your definition of Abiy’s governance failure his refusal to bow to Egypt and Egypt’s WSW masters and rally Ethiopians behind sovereignty and self-sufficiency?
Isn’t that un-Economist of you? What I see is an emerging Proud, Clean and Prosperous Ethiopia WITHOUT your WSW masters’ loans, aid, etc. In addition to feeding 9 million school children twice a day, Ethiopia won’t import wheat, rice, oil, etc. anymore.
Look, Abiy is a millionaire [Nobel Prize]. He could have quit and lived a luxurious life. He even gave his book sales to build schools: fanabc.com/archives/29187 Dr. Yonas, have you done an iota of what Abiy has done for Ethiopia? What a hypocrite!
I would like to ask my dear countryman Obbo Yonas and all other qualified experts among our Diaspora a polite question.
What are the generally accepted criteria of a ‘Failed Governance’ and ‘Failed State’? For me these two are not the same and I believe the 2nd one is usually preceded by the first one. My observation has been that a country may have a ‘Failed Governance’ but still can function in many critical areas. What qualify our old country to be in either the two situation? Again this is an honest question. I would appreciate it very much.