Universal economic growth for a prosperous Ethiopia!

A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister held a welcome dinner party for the Diaspora community that recently arrived in the country in response to the call of invitation from the government. During the party, the Prime Minister mentioned a few ideas on how to strengthen the ties between the Diaspora community and their country, Ethiopia. He talked about various ways in which the Diaspora community could work with the government in order to leave a better Ethiopia for its children to visit and even choose as a place of residence in the coming years. One of the topics he mentioned was the different projects that the government is working on, such as the resort projects of Gorgora, Koisha and Wenchi which amount up to a billion birr each. While he mentioned these projects he said, “Leave Addis Ababa”, which meant that they could invest on a lot of projects outside the city. This new direction of investment really caught my attention due to the fact that I myself have been suggesting the same thing for a few major political and economic reasons.

As a resident of Addis Ababa, I have witnessed various projects carried out by the City Administration and the Federal Government in the aim of beautifying the city. Especially in recent years, the Federal Government has come up with quite a few projects amounting up to tens of billions of birr, such as the Addis Ababa River project and the Legehar project in which it is planning to invest its financial and manpower resources at the moment. This is not a bad idea in itself due to the fact that Addis is the capital city of the country as well as the seat of the African Union. But in the long run, these kinds of investments have made Addis the center of political and economic attention whilst it only holds 7 to 10 percent of the entire population of the country, which means that the majority of the population still lacks access to the different infrastructures and development programs executed by the government.

These development plans and projects which highly focus on the city are also some of the reasons as to why there are various conflicts in the country over which ethnic group it belongs to. Not only political parties and various ethnic groups show their interest in the Capital, but also different parts of the society such as religious institutions and individuals from other towns in the country. Addis Ababa has been attracting the interests of many mainly due to the infrastructural developments it has achieved in comparison to the other cities and towns in the country. The infrastructural developments of the city have attracted citizens from all over the country to leave their families and homes and to come looking for different employment opportunities in the city. Others, who are in the line of business, also set their eyes upon the city and its residents for several dealings and transactions they plan to carry out instead of trying to develop their businesses in their respective regions. For example, a coffee selling business person at Yirgacheffe sell their coffee product and save the profits they earned and look for an opportunity to either expand their business to Addis or build a place of residence for themselves and their families in the city. Whereas the money they earned and the business they conduct is based on the people of Yirgacheffe, their ultimate desire is to end up in Addis.

It has almost become a norm to think of whoever builds a house or a business in Addis by moving out of their regions, as successful people. Why? Because several development projects of the government are concentrated on the city. This has greatly discouraged various “successful” entrepreneurs from giving back to their community and investing on different projects taking place in their regions. In the long run, this means that most of the people in their communities will still remain underdeveloped and face the same problems of shortage of access to various basic facilities such as schools and hospitals. While the government is focused on upgrading different infrastructures in Addis, we still have people in rural areas of the country who suffer from lack of access to basic utilities such as electricity, telecommunication and water supply.

In addition, the fact that we have too many people migrating to Addis creates another chain of problems since there is too much concentration and circulation of money in the city, which would in turn give rise to inflation. It’s a basic principle that where there is too much money, there will always be a vulnerability to inflation and a rise in the cost of living. For instance, if we are to look at the price of products sold in and around Bole, we would see that they are sold at a higher price than products of other areas in Addis. Sometimes it might even be the same product in two different areas and yet, it costs a lot more in one area than the other. Why? Because where there is too much money, the value is often given to the product; and hence, it will be expensive. If the market is directed in such a way that there is too much demand for a product, then it will be expensive, but if there is too much supply of the same product it will be sold for a cheaper price. Therefore, if there is too much concentration and circulation of money in Addis, it will give a rise to inflation and an increase in the cost of living. This in turn affects the lives of the fixed income earners of the city who are employed in different governmental and non-governmental institutions; which will in turn encourage those individuals to take part in corruption and other illegal means of earning money in order to overcome the financial crisis they are facing every day.

Another issue that needs to be addressed here is that we have to take advantage of the natural beauty and the historical value of different regions in the country when we think of building various infrastructures. For instance, if we were to visit the southern part of Ethiopia, we would see that it is a very green region with fertile soil. This region could serve as a site of tourist attraction if we plan to work on developing it. It could become a place where people would visit to see nature and get a fresh air outside of the city life. In addition, we claim to be a nation with more than 3000 years of history, but we have not provided the perfect circumstance for foreigners to study our culture and history. We should pay attention to cities and regions that are more resourceful in this regard than Addis and work on developing them to their maximum potential.

All in all, the government should forget Addis as a center of investment and work on developing other cities and towns to match the standards of Addis. It should leave Addis to the private sector because the desire for urbanization in the private sector will help the city to grow and develop even if no attention was given to it by the government. It should decentralize its economic investments from Addis and look to build other regions with diverse potentials to grow and serve as a source of economic income in the country. If we are to take the US as an example, New York is the center of its economic transaction for whereas Washington D.C is its political center; if we go to South Africa, there are multiple urbanized cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban. We should adapt their system of development and create multiple urban centers to use them as centers of political affairs and economic affairs separately. The government should highly work on creating a balanced regional economic growth which might help alleviate the current political extremism and the crises that follow.

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The



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