By Dawit Ayele Haylemariam
If you ask “Is Ethiopia rising?” the answer will most likely depend on who you are asking. If you ask a regular follower of the country’s public media outlets, the answer will be an astounding yes! The same question posed to someone who gets his reports from the independent media and social media activists, will elicit a flagrantly different response, something to the effect that the country is not making any tangible progress and that it is rather engaging in huge infrastructural projects to camouflage and mask the underlying poverty.
The disagreement from these two groups often comes from misunderstanding of what economic growth represents and how it differs from development.
Economic growth is simply an increase in the amount of goods and services produced in a country over a given period of time, it is commonly measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Essentially, any activity that involves the transaction of values, however of no use or even harmful to human life, will have an increasing effect on the GDP. But, Economic development refers to the sustained improvement in living conditions, citizen’s self-esteem, meeting of basic needs and enabling of a free and just society.
Based on the above criteria, it is beyond argument that Ethiopia’s GDP has been growing at a notable growth rate over the past decade. A recent report by IMF also ranks Ethiopia among the five fastest growing economies in the world.
The objective of this article is to understand the sources of the growth and analyze whether the growth has been (or will be) translated into sustainable improvement in the wellbeing of citizens.
Why should we question the good news of fast economic growth? you may ask. The reason for maintaining skepticism is because history is replete with examples where economic growth was not followed by similar progress in human development. Instead growth was achieved at the cost of greater inequality, higher unemployment and weakened democracy.