Development Aspirations in Contemporary Ethiopia

Dr. Suresh Kumar

Diplomatist. Vol. III No.1. January 2011


The basic elements of Homo sapiens and its growth originated in Africa and according to many scholars, the region of ancient Ethiopia (first was Kush civilization) that is known as the cradle of civilization. The Ethiopian history is about man’s heritage of beautiful art and creation that has been known to the rest of the world since earlier times. The archeological evidence from East Africa clearly demonstrates that upright-walking ancestors existed in Africa more than 4 million years ago. Approximately 2.5 million years ago, African ancestors were involved in making stone tools in order to satisfy their daily conditions and the same stone artifacts are found in Ethiopia is known as the Stone Age period. The Kushitic civilization had its own form of writing in place at least five centuries before the birth of Christ. Ethiopia is having the heritage of classical Ge’ez language of ancient Axum Empire by the fourth century A.D. Historically, the fertile soil, adequate rainfall and rivers water supplies of Ethiopia had encouraged the early civilization for the development of agriculture. The practice of ancient old agriculture pattern needs scientific up-gradation strengthening to accommodate the growing population of this region as 82 percent of the population belongs to rural area and about 18% located in the urban vicinity.
Politically, the post 1991 Constitution divides the new Ethiopia into nine Federal States, with a total of 62 Zones, 528 Districts and some 30,000 were das. Addis Ababa, the Federal capital, and Dire Dawa were established as Self-Administrative Regions. The member states of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are ‘the Tigray National Regional State, the Afar National Regional State, the Amhara National Regional State, the Oromiya National Regional State, the Somali National Regional State, the Benshangul/Gumuz National Regional State, the South Ethiopia National Regional State, the Gambella National Regional State and the Harari National Regional State’ (Constitution. 1994:25). These regions want to develop according to their needs in a balanced way to promote for the basic amenities of bread, cloth, shelter, education, health, employment opportunities and social security for their region’s people under the federal structure. The requisite practice of Ethiopian federalism should seek a balanced approach of development in the whole country and avoid lop-sided development by favoring a particular region that may develop the secessionist tendencies. Prof. Bertus Praeg highlights the different elements of Ethiopian society and provides broader information to understand the plurality of the society under Table-1 (Bertus Praeg. 2006: 172). This plural society of Ethiopia demands for the pro-people economic policy to strengthen their livelihood. The policy of development and positive investment is the hard core reality for the country like Ethiopia to cater the pluralism in the country. The policy of development in Ethiopia reflects the distance among African countries and its connectivity to the world. The results of recent national election declared on 21 June, 2010 of Ethiopia expresses the clear verdict of what people want from their elected government. Ethiopians demand for the region’s development and a way for sustainable development. This article discusses the development of agriculture sector & poverty eradication, tackling the social issues relating to education, health, infra structure development, employment opportunity and social security to strengthen the federal character of the constitution in real terms.

Table-1 The Configuration of Ethiopian Society

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Features of Ethiopian Society Reason for adoption of Federalism
Ethnic composition of the population Pluralism
Language diversity Heterogeneous (85 languages)
Religious diversity Christian Orthodoxy and Islam
Ethnic or regional sub-identities Present
Incidence of rebellious nationalism Present
Head of State/Government Head of Government
Executive Power Parliamentary system
Number of Houses with legislative power Two
Centralization/decentralization of political power (main part of the twentieth-century) Highly centralized
Authoritarian government in twentieth-century Before 1991
Enforced assimilation Yes
Presence of dominant ethnic groups Yes
Electoral system Ethnic parties
Incidence of political parties which are exclusively ethnic and regional Yes
Multinational political parties Yes (restrained)
Incidence of coalition government Yes
Coalition government between ethnically-exclusive political parties Yes
Party-political fractionalization Moderate to high
Party-political ideological polarization High

Source: Bertus Praeg. 2006. Ethiopia and Political Renaissance in Africa. 2006. Nova Science Publishers, Inc: 172 (Emphasis mine).

1.  Poverty Alleviation & Agriculture Development
Ethiopia faced several droughts and socio-cultural structural backwardness that needs long-term planning to overcome emergency situations. The government should introduce scientific technology to overcome the drought triggered food insecurity and work for the local communities accordingly. Ethiopian agriculture, second largest sector of investment focuses on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) since 2004 and received number of projects as mentioned in Table-2. The present government of Ethiopia has adopted an agriculture and rural-centered development strategy known as Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization (ADLI).  ADLI focuses on the development of smallholder farm productivity and the expansion of commercial farms. One suggests that the structure of cooperative farming in West & South India and Kenya may be replicated in Ethiopia. If successfully implemented, it has the potential to reduce food insecurity, absolute poverty and environmental degradation. Ethiopian farmers should adopt alternative technologies that require Indo-Ethiopian investments in rural infrastructure, input and output market improvements, land markets, credit policy, agro-industry and promotion of non-farm enterprises. The challenge is to develop innovative and cost-effective Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) related institutions (including NGO’s) that support agriculture establishing pro-farmer environment.

Table-2 Approved FDI by Sector -Investment in Million Birr



Approved Projects Operational Projects % Share
Projects Investment Projects Investment Projects Investment
Hotel & Tourism 8 236 1 1162 12.5 492.4
Agriculture 31 2711 4 1243 12.9 45.8
* Education & Health Services, Construction, trade, Mining & others
Total 276 13914 51 3285 18.5 23.6

* It does not require detailed information as the discussion is focused on agriculture.
Source: Ethiopia: Trade and Transformation Challenges Study, 2004.

Today, Ethiopian government promotes the establishment of various NGOs for their socio-economic contributions and for their development role. This NGOs movement grows under affirmative action policy having set aims & objectives and is rapidly spreading in the country. The strength of agriculture sector is the right way to work for poverty eradication among the majority population.  Ethiopia is looking forward for bilateral, multilateral and regional economic cooperation in the region as a part of its foreign economic policy. But there is a need to keep caution regarding the role of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) that did not bring a fruitful development in Africa. In the long run, most of their policies have become a burden on the development policies of Africa. Following suggestions may help the Ethiopian government to check the MNCs attitude under market liberalization such as:

1.    Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in Ethiopia should be concerned with the relative decline of agricultural production of domestic food and industrial requirements. It is estimated that the use of 33 percent of the total land in Ethiopia is sufficient for the domestic consumption including having food stock for the emergency. The investors are buying land in Ethiopia for agricultural purposes. The sharing of the total produce should be in the ratio of 67:33, where 67 percent should be reserved for the export & industry and only 33 percent should be used for domestic consumption. The suggestion to propose this ratio is that Ethiopia does not have the advance cold storage facility to keep the food grains presently on the one hand and the lower ratio is sufficient to cater population of a country on the other hand. Prof. Sudhir Kapoor shared his Ethiopian experience during one interview with me that the local people used to sell at a very low price of five-ten fishes for One Birr because of lack of cold storage facility.
2.    Ethiopian governments should adopt a method of assessing the quantity of food production required for local market versus production for exports. Along with it, similar method should be used for local agro-industrial activities. These measures will help to develop mutual understanding among PPP.

Ethiopia needs to diversify the agricultural production and should introduce the non-agricultural activities for income generation and promote the food security. The Agro-industry will initiate the rural non-farm employment in Ethiopia that will check the mass migration from rural to urban areas in search of employment. Agro-industry should introduce poultry, piggery, milk diaries, horticulture, floriculture, mustard pressing machines for producing vegetable oil, flour mills, small-scale domestic cotton industries and others. Along with it, the agricultural extension services should strengthen the irrigation system and canalization, introduction of scientific drought-resistant seeds and green environment fertilizers. These programmes directly benefits the peasants particularly small land holders and fight against food insecurity. Along with it, the Self-help groups (SHG) should educate the rural population in the villages about the need of building infrastructure, resource conservation and increasing farm and non-farm production to achieve food security. The SHG need to focus on employment generation and the related training programmes to strengthen the local level production and its utilities. Following suggestions will help to strengthen Ethiopia’s programmes for poverty alleviation and food security such as:

1.    The resource mobilization of Ethiopia should be from the domestic, regional and international markets. The government should be committed to raise the budgetary allocation to agricultural sector to shape economic growth positively. The government should take commitments from all the investors for the adequate training of HRD including skilled labour in agriculture sector on the one hand and work for transfer of technology on the other hand. It should persuade for intra-African trade serving common man’s needs.
2.     The population growth needs to introduce more agricultural land and introduce applications of Science & Technology (S&T) in Ethiopia.  The S&T methods like better seeds, dwarf plantations, demand of less water crop, rotation patterns, minimum period of crop production and preference for the use of natural insecticides will help its agricultural system.
3.    There is widespread inequitable land distribution biased against small farmers. The need of community farming under Collective Land System should be promoted, which will help in using scientific agricultural implements in Ethiopia. It will strengthen market based land reform and give more bargaining power to the community farmers that were lost its relevance during the Mengistu regime.
4.    The scientific agriculture system will persuade and promote the farmers to join agriculture education, literacy programmes and other awareness programmes. Moreover, introducing agriculture extension is an important component of agriculture universities here that will help Ethiopian Agriculture Education System to produce Agro-Scientists on that one hand and strengthen scientific agriculture pattern in rural areas on the other hand.
5.    Different programmes likeai Dry Farms, Poultry, Piggery, fisheries, Sericulture, Horticulture, Floriculture and Shrimp & Prawn cultivations should be introduced here as an alternate food resource. It needs commercial feed to save grazing areas and build Veterinary Hospitals accordingly. It will help in fulfilling the mutual needs and establish mutual cooperation among rural and urban areas. The banks should strengthen micro-finance and SHGs in agro-industry.
6.    Ethiopia needs more agriculture scientist and practitioners, who will help its youth to get training in agriculture sciences and develop technology as per local needs. It will enhance field of research and teaching in Agriculture Colleges and University and generate self-employment among educated youth.
7.    The government should initiate the process of Rural Cooperative Banks.These banks may provide different loan schemes for modern mechanical support like tractors and other implements, credit to farmers (to buy good seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, etc) insurance schemes on crops and subsidized technical guidance and other financial assistance (building concrete houses, potable water pipes, electricity, cooking gas stoves and kerosene oil stove, etc.) to rural society. The alternate sources of domestic energy (to avoid firewood) like bio-gas plants, energy saving stoves, solar pressure cookers and wind energy system need to be introduced in the rural areas and the NGOs & SHGs should motivate local people to use it. The long war of twenty years in Ethiopia destroyed the green environment and the people should be educated to plant private trees in their fields or surroundings for better environment.
8.    Importance of growing trees/plants needs to be communicated through PPP to the people that will help them become aware of soil erosion and land protection promoting Green Environment. The permission to cut trees be made stringent to save plants. The PPP and government along with SHGs & NGOs should persuade farmers to receive agricultural training courses, awareness of information technology in agriculture sector, use of animal husbandry and building scientific civic society.The soil conservation awareness programme should be broadcasted on the national TV channels and all channels of Radio including FM stations in regional languages that give orientation, training and practice to farmers in their respective areas. The incentives should be given to those farmers who adopt scientific methods of cultivation.
9.    Finally, the governments should adopt programmes such as food for work and cash for work programmes in the agriculture and related sectors. The related sectors involve road building network, dam construction, boring wells, small channels from river for irrigation purposes, installation of power projects (electricity), thermal units, etc. The infrastructure development, credit schemes to farmers and proper storage system will abolish the role of middleman. The direct government approach to farmers and market will maintain balance between demand and supply. This relationship between government-farmers-market-consumers will provide a right direction to agriculture sector that will fulfill the needs of African society & promote today’s Investment, tomorrow’s Prosperity in true sense.

India and Ethiopia Agriculture Partnership

It is observed that the Indian community has been involved in sectors like teaching, health, industrial development and agro-industry that promote goodwill and understanding among people in Ethiopia. Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (I) Pvt. Ltd. (Annexure-I) is currently ‘supplying of 132 kv Power transmission Line, Substation & Distribution Equipment Project worth approximately US $ 78.0 million to Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). It is setting up 26000 tons per day Green Field sugar project in Tendaho, worth US $ 345.00 million and installing new power plant worth US $ 142.00 million in Finchaa Sugar Factory in Ethiopia.’ (Your Partner. 2008: emphasis mine). Similarly, Kamani Engineering Corporation (KEC) International is working for power transmission over minefields in Africa from scorching deserts of North-West Africa and Egypt. It has also undertaken rural electrification across Ethiopian working on altitude of 2100 m above sea level and politically sensitive Somalia-Ethiopia border and other parts of African continent. It helps the agriculture sector adopting mechanical technology and irrigation facility (Annexure-I). The production of sugarcane and the sugar industries in
Ethiopia and Kenya are benefiting indigenous people of this region and nothing has been brought back to India. This counters the allegation of food piracy against India. ‘The Tata group has been given  land lese in Uganda to run a pilot agricultural project, while the Jaipurias of RJ Corp have a lease of a 50-acre model dairy farm. The latter is already active in dairy products in African markets such as Uganda and Kenya. Construction major Shapoorji Pallonji & Co has acquired the lease for 50,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia and may look at agricultural projects in future. And it’s not just large Indian companies, small and medium enterprises in sectors ranging from spices and tea to chemicals are looking at entering the commercial agriculture space in Africa. There are roughly about 70 Indian companies which are already in the process of making a foray into the farming sector in Africa. The countries which offer big opportunities include Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Ghana, Congo and Rwanda’ (Indo-African Business. May-July 2010. EXIM BANK: 31).


Indian investors in Ethiopia in Agriculture Sector
Investors from India   Specialization Field /African Experience  
1. Afcons Infrastructure Ltd.

Civil Engineering, Construction of Ports, Bridges, Flyovers, Mining & Infrastructure


2. HCL Infosystems Ltd.

IT Infrastructure and retail business

Active in Pan-Africa Project


3. International Consultants and Technocrats Pvt. Ltd.

Site Office: Ethiopia, Ghana

Consultancy in Infrastructure


4. KEC International Limited It is one of the largest Power transmissions EPC Company in the world since 1945. Optical fiber cable installations, turnkey telecom infrastructure services and maintenance of power transmission lines.
5. Kirloskar Brothers Limited

Agricultural and domestic pumps

Annual Turn Over      US$ 840 million

6. Larsen & Toubro Limited

Engineering And Construction Orgnization different projects in Africa
7. Mahindra & Mahindra

Farm Tractors
8. NRDC, Ministry of Science and Technology Agricultural Science, Agro and Food processing, biotechnology

Service to entrepreneurs/industries

9. Oversees Infrastructure Alliance (I) Pvt. Ltd.

Infrastructure and Agro-industries
10. PEC Ltd.

Ministry of Commerce & Industry

All types of Engineering Equipment & Turnkey projects, different African Countries

Annual Turn Over US$1.10 billion

11. a) Tata International

b) Chemical

c) Motors

d) Projects

e) Steel

Pharmaceutical, Chemicals, Engineering products, Kenya, South Africa and other African Countries

Annual Turn Over USD 28.8 billion

USD 1.5 billion

USD 7.2 billion

12. Water & Power Consultancy Services (India) Ltd. (WAPCOS)

Consultancy service in water resources power & Infrastructure Sectors Ethiopia, Eritrea, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Swaziland, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Source: 4th CII-EXIM (Bank) Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership, 19-21 March, 2008.

The Ambassador of Ethiopia in India Ms. Gennet Zewide explained it and said, “Talking about India’s part, India is now moving its economy is growing and there are many investors, agriculturalists and capitalists who want to go outside India and look for a greener pasture. The reason is obvious i.e. now they have the technology, company, capital and of course capability. Thus, there is a supply from India’s side and there is a demand from Ethiopia’s side. Ethiopia offers a very good investment and business opportunity. Furthermore, the economy of Ethiopia is being liberalized because of the democratization-taking place and so it is a suitable investment destination. It is a time when all are looking towards Africa. Apart from the fact that we are attracting investors and visitors, Indians themselves want to invest outside India. This in turn results in a happy medium and a closer relationship. For the last three years, Indians in Ethiopia have invested approximately 4 billion USD. Recently, Indians have become the dingle largest number of investors in Ethiopia. Now, India is coming into agriculture, agro processing etc. In the coming few years, I visualize they are also coming to medium and small-scale industries as well. Once, the growth is in flow, I am sure our input from Ethiopia will be great. But, from India, we import anything and everything-food items, electric items-because our industry has not developed yet. As we become more and more agriculturally efficient. We can also export pulses and other agricultural products from Ethiopia to India” (The Times of Africa. 2010: 35).
The academic circles on Ethiopia worry about its New Scramble and having a larger fear on India’s role as neo-colonial power. Dean Nelson observed that Karuturi Global (KGL), an Indian company, one of the world’s largest producers of cut roses has been accused of neo-colonialism in Ethiopia and Kenya (Dean Nelson: 2009). KGL refuting these claims, mentioned its agriculture investment policy clearly and highlighted that ‘Our labour welfare measures in Kenya such as Healthcare services to locals (other than employees), food to drought victims, sponsored a village mortuary and the regional WWF, provided infrastructure to the local police and manages the Sher Football Club, a team in the Kenyan Premier League, which has six of its members in the national squad are having a positive impact on the lives of Kenyan workers, their families and communities. Similarly, KGL plans to provide schools, hospitals, housing and bus facilities to Ethiopian workers. The KGL social welfare initiated programmes such as distribution of woolen blankets to poor and elderly in June 2007 and 2008, contributed $75,000 towards drinking water supply for Holetta town, provided free food every Sunday to 100 destitute for the past two years and drinking water supply to Sadamo village. The company facilitates by using indigenous Greenhouses, in-house power generation from biomass, rainwater harvesting, use environment-friendly fertilizers and chemicals, different technique for irrigation and hydroponics method of cultivation’ (Karturi: 2009).The investment in agriculture sector in Kenya and Ethiopia has created employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour there. More or less, the company uses the green houses for floriculture as that land is not suitable useful for other crops. The company plans to grow sugar, cereals, vegetables and palm and has acquired 336,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia and Kenya covering self-reliance schemes avoiding huge debt policy.  A good number of sugarcane factories have been started by Indians in Ethiopia according to the region’s demand. They are sowing sugarcane locally and producing sugar to cater domestic as well as regional market. Similarly, John Heine expressed, “Yet, contrary to what some might surmise from this new version of the Scramble of Africa, if African countries play their cards right, they have much to gain. Indian companies are more willing to invest in infrastructure and in the downstream facilities needed to bring products to port than western ones” (John Heine: 2008).

Ethiopia Agenda for Development
The government needs better hospitals in the whole country to provide secure & healthy life to all. It needs the development of health sector and small and medium enterprises. But there is lack of local skilled man power to run the hospitals and needs assistance from PPP in the development of health sector. “We felt that it will mutually benefit Ethiopians and the Indian private sector if they come to Ethiopia, especially Addis Ababa, and open branches, so that they attract not only Ethiopians but also other Africans. Addis Ababa, a city of 3.3 million, is also home to a substantial number of foreigners. It is the headquarters of the African Union and other international institutions. A memorandum of understanding is being drafted and may be signed soon between India and Ethiopia,” said Redwan Hussien, head of the delegation said recently during his visit to India (Ethiopia Medical. 2010: emphasis mine).
The School, College and University, medical, engineering, agriculture & veterinary, sciences and social sciences require a new orentation under Ethiopian education pattern. Ethiopian government should persuade the friendly countries around the world and sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the education exchange programme. By that way, the Ethiopian government will get the best educationist on deputation from the friendly countries and develop their own curriculum to strengthen their education system. The new Ethiopia education policy should be put under public domain, prepare curricula in respective desired disciplines, invite the best educationist and debar the entries of private placement agencies to recruit the teachers right from school to university system. The recruitment through placement agencies is criticized in the mass media time to time as they adopt the sub-standard recruitment methods and encourage the financial corruption. There is a need to curtail these tendencies to secure the future of Ethiopian child on the one hand and to initiate government to government MoUs that will strengthen Ethiopian education policy on the other hand.
There is an urgent need on priority basis to build infrastructure and connect all regions of Ethiopia. This infrastructure includes dams for generating power and its supply to electrify all villages, development of highways, roads, connecting sub-ways, tele-communication, building schools, colleges, universities, medical, engineering, agriculture, veterinary institutions and others. The development of infrastructure will promote other activities and will be the source of additional income for the government and generate employment opportunities. Ethiopia having rich history is an attractive tourist area. It is one of the few countries in Africa which has both historical and natural tourist attractions. Ethiopia has the lower temperature range and has excellent weather conditions through out the year, hilly terrain, wonderful scenic beauty and wildlife. Ethiopian Airlines (ET) operates an extensive network and currently caters to 60%-70% of its passengers transfer through its Addis Ababa hub. ‘It expects to transport around 3 million passengers this year, up from 2.8 million last year. Cargo remains an important part of its business, generating 18% of total revenue. He said it is considering operating 777 freighters in the future’ (Ethiopia Airlines. 2010: emphasis mine).
Though there were attractive places, tourist facilities were like hotels, resort area etc. have not been developed to the international standard. The policy of Ethiopian Government is to make tourist facilities like hotels, infrastructure like the roads available for tourists for easy transit to these historical and natural tourist places.

Today, the evidence is at best inconclusive on whether technology transfer contributes to growth and poverty reduction in Ethiopia.  There is a need to use appropriate technology as per the requirements of the people. Indian experience of using agricultural technology and its practice on Ethiopian land will facilitate the way towards mutual socio-economic transformation. Along with it, the modern agriculture system breaks the tendency of Living for Bread Only, avoiding middleman in the market economy and leading Ethiopia towards self-reliance in food industry necessary for attaining sustainable development and growth.

The author would like to acknowledge the assistance rendered by Dr. Rashmi Kapoor, Assistant Professor, Department of African Studies, University of Delhi in the preparation of this paper.


Constituion of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. 1994. The Government of Ethiopia Press. Addis Ababa.
Bertus Praeg. 2006. Ethiopia and Political Renaissance in Africa. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Dean Nelson. 28 June 2009. India joins Neocolonial rush for Africa’s land and labour, accessed on 28 July 2009.
Ethiopia Medical. accessed on 11 October 2010.
John Heine. 14 July 2008. India and the new scramble for Africa. The Hindu. English Newspaper. Delhi.
The Times of Africa. July 2010-September 2010.  Volume-2 Issue 3. Magazine. Delhi
Your Partner in Progress. March 2008. Overseas Infrastructure Alliance. Delhi.
Ethiopia Airlines. accessed on 11 October 2010.

About Author
The author serves as Head, Department of    African Studies, University of Delhi, India. He is the Chief Editor of & Indian Journal of African Studies published by University of Delhi and has traveled widely in Asia and Africa for research and teaching assignments. One book and two chapters in different books, 93 articles in leading journals, book and African Newspapers add to his contribution.