Although it has been quite a few years now since Ethiopia started to receive rave reviews about its economic wonders from international organizations, media and non-state actors, the trend still feels fresh for Ethiopians as they had been plagued with negative reports for so long. The graphic images of Ethiopians dying of hunger broadcasted by Western media still haunt the county’s image in the eyes of the international community.
For the last two decades, however, rapid economic growth and its manifestations have brought sunshine back on to the country scaring off the darkness that seemed to have engulfed it. With international and regional organizations highlighting the miraculous turnarounds in Ethiopia’s economic performance in their regular reports, the Western media started to address these positive reports about the country. The rising number of such reports and the tangible mega-projects on the ground seem to have pushed these media into taking a closer look at the country. Such a move has diversified their reports a bit as they got more than they bargained for once they actually set their feet on to the country.
The media fatigue by the international audience on how certain countries and regions are portrayed might have also contributed to the change. The portrayal of Africa as a place of hungry, poor and backward people living along some of the most dangerous wildlife in the world can no longer be sold as easily as it used to because of the proliferation of information and communication technology. Therefore, these media outlets have been forced to engage themselves with economic, social and political developments in the continent as the audience has grown sick of the old sporadic reports of hunger, wildlife, armed conflict, HIV/AIDs and the likes.
As one of the champions of the African cause, Ethiopia has risen to become the front runner in painting a positive image of the continent. The long sought marvel and pride at the international stage has been steadily building for years now that the country is mostly associated with progress and a bright future.
In the last three years alone, the country has been recognized as the third fastest growing economy in the world, trailblazer of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the World's Best Tourism Destination for 2015. Its capital Addis Ababa has also been acknowledged as the third biggest United Nations hub following New York and Brussels. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has also been named ‘Man of the Year’ 2015 by Africa World News newspaper for sustaining the country’s rapid economic growth.
A report by the World Bank Group entitled “Ethiopia’s Great Run: The Growth Acceleration and How to Pace it” stated that the country is on track to achieve its goal of becoming middle income status by 2025. The report applauded the uniquely Ethiopian policies that ensured sustainable economic growth for over a dozen years.
Dr. Carlos Lopes, former Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) argued that Ethiopia would become Africa’s biggest economy by 2050. Dr. Carlos weighed prospects and challenges for Nigeria, South Africa-current economic giants in Africa, with resource rich DR Congo and fast growing Ethiopia to reach to the conclusion that Ethiopia would come out as top performer in Africa by 2050.
The Executive Secretary said: “At nearly 100 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s third most populous, and has posted blistering economic growth in the past decade or so. More importantly, it is fast closing the infrastructure gap, laying down a flurry of roads, railways and power projects, which would give it a competitive advantage in the region, particularly over DR Congo that is notoriously poorly connected.”
The Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes took his own parameters to arrive at his conclusion. However, it seems like Ethiopia awaits a daunting task to turn his prophecies into reality. After all, Nigeria and South Africa are the biggest economies in Africa with DR Congo mustering one of the richest resources a country can have.
Therefore, let’s take a look at what sort of capacities Ethiopia has been projected to overtake in the coming thirty-five years. To have a better understanding of where Ethiopia is currently and where it has been tipped to get in the coming 35 years, let’s just take a brief look at the World Bank data for Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa with a population of 96.5 million, and population growth rate of 2.5% in 2014. One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Ethiopia is also one of the world’s poorest countries. The country’s per capita income of $550 is substantially lower than the regional average (Gross National Income, Atlas Method). The government aspires to reach a middle income status over the next decade.
Some sources put the country’s GDP at just over $47 billion in 2013. The economy has experienced strong and broad based growth over the past decade, averaging 10.8% per year in 2003/04 - 2013/14 compared to the regional average of 4.8%. Expansion of the services and agricultural sectors account for most of this growth, while manufacturing sector performance was relatively modest. Private consumption and public investment explain demand side growth with the latter assuming an increasingly important role in recent years.
Economic growth brought with it positive trends in reducing poverty, in both urban and rural areas. While 38.7% of Ethiopians lived in extreme poverty in 2004-2005, five years later, this was 29.6%, which is a decrease of 9.1 percentage points as measured by the national poverty line, of less than $0.6 per day. Using the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the government’s goal is to reduce this further to 22.2% by 2014-2015.
Ethiopia has achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for child mortality and water. There has also been encouraging progress, particularly in gender parity in primary education, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Positive results have also been achieved in universal primary education. Ethiopia has now taken on the Sustainable Development Goals.