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Yonas Biru, PhD
Ethiopia has two existential threats: Its Tribal Constitution that is primitive in its governance architecture and degenerative in its political philosophy, and its dinosaurian intellectuals of a tribal peasant’s mind and tradition. The problem is the Constitution cannot be civilized by way of a transformative reform before the nation’s intellectual class is unshackled from the chains of its cultural backwardness. The damage for our country is existential in a world that is transforming at a faster rate than it has experienced over past millennia.
In June 2018, I wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Abiy, stating:
Mr. Prime Minister: You have come to office as the US and Europe are witnessing major social transformations. Whether we love it, hate it, or sneer at it, Trump’s agenda is a movement. A revolution of sorts. His America First agenda has ushered him into the White House, and this is not an electoral hiccup.
His policy against immigrants is neither stimulated by race nor driven by political expediency. Those who cite his “shit-hole countries” and his statement in the wake of a White nationalist rally in Charlottesville are missing the forest for the tree.
The anti-immigrant sentiment is neither an isolated American phenomenon nor a passing flirtation with racism. There are structural and fundamental factors in play. Governments in the US and Europe understand that tough immigration policies alone are not enough to keep immigrants away from their borders. Supporting Africa’s development has become a strategic policy anchored in national interest fueled by anti-immigration sentiments.
The rapid globalization and the seemingly intractable terrorism problem have created urgency to a structural shift in international development policies. Institutions like the World Bank and IMF are frantically reforming themselves to catch up with the conservative tsunami.
Your government must actively position itself to showcase an aggressive market driven reform that can in a reasonably short time demonstrate Ethiopia can achieve what East Asian countries have achieved in a short period. Ethiopia must position herself as a grand experiment to showcase an African success story.
Positioning your administration to such a global play should be your priority. Your administration should proactively leverage Ethiopia’s aggressive development agenda and position its strategic development framework at the nexus of the emerging global geopolitics and the ensuing international development policy. You need to make Ethiopia an active international development aid seeker, not a passive recipient of it.
My open letter was aimed at encouraging the PM to take proactive steps to get ahead of, or at least keep pace with, new geopolitical developments. My hope was the intellectual community would take a lead. That was the purpose of the independent economic advisory council proposal that Professor Lemma and I developed. But the backward intellectual culture was not open for such an intellectual endeavor. Rather, for our intellectuals the #NoMore idiocy is a more fitting doctrine to their hermitized and tribalized thinking.
What is the change in the global development paradigm? Allow me to share with you three paragraphs from an Article I published in December 2018.
Driven by trivariate geopolitical interests to contain China’s growing influence in Africa, arrest the flow of migrants and refugees to the US and Europe, and mitigate Africa’s susceptibility as a breeding ground for international terrorism, the US and its allies are fundamentally reshaping the international development aid modality.
The speedy passage of the US Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act of 2018 represents a cornerstone of the change. The Act incentivizes flows of private capital to Africa to spur private sector-led economic growth and job creation and extends preferential trade agreements to African countries to boost their export earnings.
The UK also aims to “boost trade between the UK and Africa,” with the aim of “making the UK the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.” The billions that Britain plans to invest will help “African economies grow by trillions,” British Prime Minister Theresa May avowed.
Two recent articles in the US reaffirmed what I have been writing. One is titled “How America Can Foster an African Boom: The Continent Needs Investment—Not Just Aid.” (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/africa/how-america-can-foster-african-boom#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20government%20can%20also,%2C%20at%20below%2Dmarket%20rates) It appeared in African Affairs in August 2022. The second is titled “The New U.S. Africa Strategy Breaks From the Status Quo.”(https://carnegieendowment.org/2022/08/11/new-u.s.-africa-strategy-breaks-from-status-quo-with-some-perplexing-stumbles-pub-87666)
The world is changing. The only thing that is frozen in time is the hermitized and tribalized Ethiopian intellectual class. Its #NoMore campaign is its article of faith fountaining from the well of its geopolitical ignorance. Seeing them jump up and down with moronic slogans on the streets of Washington and Brussels is entertaining for the eyes. But it is damaging to the nation they purport to defend.
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