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An urban railway system in Ethiopia.

Like Ethiopia, Nigeria Can Also Be Transformed Within 10 Years. But How?

Within a decade, the story of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, changed from that of hopelessness to uncommon transformation and development. Standing as the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty, Ethiopia has a mixed story of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Between 1970s and 2003, Ethiopia passed through various forms of crises ranging from civil war to drought and famine. In fact, by 2002, it was widely described as a ‘poor and sickly’ country.

Fast-forward to 2012, ten years after the gloomy state of the nation, a miracle had happened.

Within a decade, the country has been transformed from being perhaps the weakest of sub-Saharan countries to become one of the most promising economies in the world and with consistently improving human development indicators.

This turn around was so phenomenal that The Economist magazine formally recognized Ethiopia as one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012.

Pointers to the miracle

In 2015, the GDP was estimated to be 11 per cent per annum. Compared to the record of other top performers, Kenya growing at 4.8 per cent and Rwanda 7.9 per cent in 2013-2014, Ethiopia’s growth rate is impressive.

  • Within 10 years, inflation has been reduced to a single digit and per capita income has doubled.
  • Poverty has been reduced with 29.6 per cent of the population living on less than US $1.25 a day.
  • Life expectancy had increased to 63.6 years in 2013, and 65 years in 2016 (one of the highest in Africa).
  • The Human Development Index has improved and was 0.435 based on data from 2013.
  • The number of people dependent on emergency relief across the country has dropped from 15 million in 2003 to an estimated 2.7 million in 2014 (1).

How Did This Happen?

Visionary leadership is the simple answer. The late 57-year-old Prime Minister Meles Zenawi decided to rebuild the country and therefore set out a clear agenda to that effect. The country’s leadership drafted plans and detailed steps to achieve them.

For instance, “In 2003/2004, the government established its ‘Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme (SDPRP)’, from 2006-2010, it implemented the 5-year ‘Plan for Accelerated and Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP)’, and during the period 2011-2015 the ‘Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP)’.”

On September 20, 2015, Ethiopian government commissioned the Addis Ababa Light Rail transportation running from the city centre to many industrial areas. The 17km line became the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.

The government invested heavily in Agriculture, embarking on farmers-friendly reforms and support programs. This led to a rapid increase in agricultural production which now averages 8 per cent growth year-on-year.

Focus on industrialization by creating enabling environment led to the establishment of production plants and manufacturing hubs.

In 2011, a US$ 5 billion ‘Grand Renaissance Hydroelectric Dam Project’, the largest hydropower project in Africa, was launched to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity, that’s about the total megawatt of electricity generated in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. Once completed in 2017, it is expected to have even more magical effect on Ethiopia’s rising economy.

Nigeria which way?

The story of Ethiopia is very fantastic, but definitely not without challenges. With a very high mortality rate, lower involvement of women in governance, and ‘alarming hunger’ status according to the Global Hunger Index, the country has more challenges to overcome.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, but many of the citizens live in poverty. With an alarming rate of unemployment especially among the youths, insecurity, and institutionalized corruption, the nine-month old government of President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to turn things around.

Buhari’s government can also lay the foundation for Nigeria’s version of Ethiopia’s miracle and even do more, but a long term National Plan with clear-cut implementation strategies is very essential. The government can also borrow a leaf from the inspiring stories of Ethiopia, Botswana, Rwanda and Kenya to bring the much anticipated Change to Nigeria, Africa’s Biggest Brother.

Credit: Futurelearn; The Economist; The Guardian; Deloitte and Touche.


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