Posts filed under ‘Ethiopia’
By Jenny VAUGHAN
For Bethlehem Tilahun, the answer to ending poverty in Africa is not aid or sympathy or donations from the West. It’s shoes.
Specifically, building a successful shoe manufacturing business that creates jobs, empowers employees, like the one she founded Ä
SoleRebels, the first ever global footwear company to come out of a developing country.
“You don’t build your economy based on aid, you want to build your economy based on the way SoleRebels built its business, so that it’s sustainable,” Bethlehem told AFP.
SoleRebels highlights how burgeoning enterprises can transform economies across Africa.
By shifting away from a reliance on exporting raw materials to the production of premium products such as shoes, Africa can ease its dependency on aid and slowly move toward industrialised growth.
Founded in 2004, SoleRebels now employs around 150 Ethiopians producing shoes with hand-spun Ethiopian cotton, rubber and leather for export in over 65 stores around the world.
She believes creating jobs, supporting local industries and transforming Africa’s image abroad will have lasting impact on economies across the continent in ways that traditional aid cannot.
“That is sustainable, and that’s the only way of getting out of poverty,” she said, sitting in her flagship store in downtown Addis Ababa.
With a growth rate of 7.2 percent, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
But, paradoxically, it also remains one of the top recipients of aid in Africa.
Today, the Ethiopian government is keen on boosting private investment, increasing trade and transforming the agriculture-based economy into an industry-based one, mimicking development models from Asia, such as South Korea or China.
For Bethlehem, it is not only about moving from aid to trade, it is about building a savvy business and manufacturing a product that resonates with customers from France to Taiwan, not because its made in Ethiopia, but because it is a good shoe.
“People see them and say ‘wow, cool shoes!’ without necessarily knowing they are made in Ethiopia. To me, that is critical,” she said.
She is intent on marketing her product in exactly the same way as longer-established Western-based companies market theirs.
“We are not saying … ‘we’re poor, we’re in Africa, we’re doing this to help the poor’. We have a brand, and we strongly believe in what we’re doing,” she said, lighting up at she gazes at the racks of shoes in her wood-lined store.
Ä Trade, not aid Ä
Born in a poor neighbourhood in Ethiopia’s capital, Bethlehem said she was inspired at a young age to go against the grain, especially after seeing how little impact traditional aid had in her community and her country.
“To follow everybody’s pattern is not something that I wanted to do from the beginning,” she said with a characteristic zeal in her eyes. “If I am doing the same thing that everybody is doing and I don’t make a difference, there is no change.”
Shoes, she said, are the perfect homegrown product since they can be produced entirely from Ethiopian materials. The cotton and leather is sourced locally, while the rubber soles are made from recycled tires.
Plus, the shoes and the company name resonates with Ethiopia’s rich history. Having never been formally colonised, Ethiopian rebels famously fought off Italian occupiers in 1941, inspiring a pride and spirit of independence Bethlehem sought to invoke with her company.
“We’re free, that’s why we call ourselves SoleRebels,” she said, sitting next to a display of colourful, rubber-soled shoes modelled after shoes worn by Ethiopia’s rebels.
Her business ethos is one that succeeds where charitable retailers elsewhere do not. Tugging on philanthropic heart strings, Western companies often brandish products manufactured cheaply in Asia in order to help Africa, something the socially-conscious founder of SoleRebels adamantly opposes.
She said too many companies “come up with ever more outrageous claims of how they are saving Africa or helping Africa as a marketing tactic to sell product,” adding that “most of it is pure ‘BS’.”
“We strongly believe that people have to get a certain salary, so we don’t want to produce our products with cheap labour,” she added.
The first certified fair trade shoe company in the world, SoleRebels proudly pays their employees five times the minimum wage in a country where average per capita income is less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank.
The secret to her success lies in large part in her perseverance. She faced many financial and administrative challenges early on but refused to give up.
Bethlehem also stands out in a country where business is dominated by men.
She built her company up from scratch with an initial investment of $5000. Today, she is aiming to build the company’s net worth to $250 million by 2020.
Having received accolades internationally, including from Forbes and the World Economic Forum, Bethlehem admits she is sometimes surprised at how successful her business is, but having gained momentum in recent years, she is set on expanding her global empire now.
“I am dreaming about it all the time,” she said.
SoleRebels will open over 50 stand-alone retail shops abroad over the next three years, adding to the 11 already in Taiwan, Singapore, Austria, Japan, Spain and Ethiopia. Her dream is to see Ethiopia’s economy transformed by supporting more businesses like her own.
“Imagine we have hundreds or thousands of SoleRebels…,” she said, with a sly smile. – Sapa-AFP
By ELLENI ARAYA
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER
The Administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made the full might of its power known last Friday, after ordering the arrest of 10 high and medium ranking officials of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA), along with six businessmen, some of whom are well known.
The Federal Ethics & Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) announced launching a probe against the suspects, but remained quiet about the wrongs they are being accused of.
“Following leads from the public, the Commission, in cooperation with the national security and information services, has been investigating the suspects,” said the Commission headed by Ali Sulieman on Friday night. “Compiling sufficient material evidence and people to testify, the Commission finds it necessary to take them into custody until their case is presented to a court of law.”
Prominent, among those arrested on Friday late afternoon, is Melaku Fenta, director general, of ERCA. He was in his office located off Equatorial Guinea St., (near Megenagna roundabout), when investigators arrested him at 5:00pm, according to eyewitnesses. At about the same time, his deputies Gebrewahed W. Giorgis, in charge of ERCA’s most feared intelligence unit, was arrested by members of the Federal Police Commission outside of ERCA, while Eshetu Woldesemayat, head of the prosecutors’ Directorate, was escorted by police officers from ERCA headquarters.
It is believed that they were heading to the Federal Forensic Department of the Federal Police Commission, a.k.a Maekelawi, on Dejazmach Belay Zeleke Road.
Asemelash W. Mariam, head of Kality Customs; Amegnie Tagel, head of Nazareth Customs; and Tiruneh Berta, team leader of confiscated goods inspection, were also taken into custody on the same day.
The list of people arrested late last week hardly stopped with those inside the government. Prominent businessmen were also arrested in connection with Melaku and his colleagues, including Nega G. Egziyabher of Nesta Trading Plc; Ketema Kebede of K. K. Plc; and Simachew Kebede of InterContinental Addis. Two lesser known businessmen, Zerihun Zewdie and Marishet Tesfu, both of whom run transit companies, were apprehended by police.
Mihereteab Abraha, a businessman who is the brother of Seeye Abraha, was arrested at around 2:00pm, when he went to his children’s school, according to a family member.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” a close family member told Fortune. “He fought ERCA all the way to the Supreme Court where he won his case.”
This is the second time Mihereteab has been arrested and probed by the Anti-Corruption Commission in ten years. Back in the early 2000s, he was arrested and spent close to five years fighting charges of corruption before he was released in the mid-2000s.
“I wonder how he could be implicated with the others,” said this family member.
But none of the officials from the Federal Police and Anti-Corruption Commission have disclosed to the public on what grounds the suspects were put under custody.
“The list is a tall-order,” said an administration official.
Searches were carried out by investigators on Friday night and Saturday morning in the homes and offices of the suspects, Fortune learnt.
However, the investigation directed at some of ERCA’s officials has been going on for close to six months, according to sources in the government. A taskforce from the Commission, the Information Network Security Agency and the Forensic Department of the Federal Police Commission was collecting material evidence, although “very few people were privy to the investigation,” according to a mid-level official from the Anti-Corruption Commission.
“I was aware that they were investigating Gebrewahid,” this official told Fortune. “But, Melaku’s was not something that was revealed to us. It must have come much later.”
The case involves alleged improprieties at customs processing, especially involving imports of steel, according to sources.
The arrests were, however, made after the information allegedly implicating the suspects was presented to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn a week prior to the wave of arrests was carried out, according to a senior aide of the Prime Minister.
“He feels very strongly about this,” this aide told Fortune, but asked anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. “I believe he started to make good on his promises that he will fight corruption provided that the public supports him by providing valuable leads and information.”
It is the first time since the early 2000s the government has conducted a wave of arrests against officials and businesspeople, including a member of the powerful executive committee of the ruling EPRDF.
Back in the 2000s, Seeye Abraha, former strongman of the TPLF, was arrested, along several businessmen and bank executives, and subsequently charged with corruption. They all had spent close to five years in jail before they were released. Prior to that, Tamrat Layne, former prime minister during the transitional government, was arrested in the mid-1990s, together with businesspeople, all accused of corruption.
Melaku, an economics graduate from Addis Abeba University, oversaw several tax reforms including widening the tax base, by requiring businesses to install cash registration machines and to become registered for Value Added Tax (VAT). He was appointed by former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, to be director general of the newly organized ERCA, in June of 2008.
Under him, the amount of revenues the federal government mobilized has reached 71 billion Br in 2011/12, a dramatic increase from the 19 billion Br collected before he took the position. ERCA has also consistently managed to meet the revenue targets set for it by the government, though it fell short of the in-house goals it set for itself.
But reforms were not easy to implement and were not necessarily popular. Businesses have long complained of ill-treatment by lower level officials of ERCA, lack of uniform information, bureaucratic bottlenecks, and regulatory unpredictability, marred by inefficiency and unfair taxation.
Front and centre fielding such complaints from the business community at consultation meetings along with Melaku was his deputy Gebrewahed who headed the most feared law enforcement directorate within ERCA.
Most recently, officials from the ERCA have come to loggerheads with businesses, after demanding businesses pay undistributed dividends. During ERCA’s performance assessment meeting, higher level officials were accused of turning a blind eye towards some big businesses for which only lower level officials were bearing the brunt, sources disclosed to Fortune.
Last week’s wave of arrests on people known to be well connected within the political establishment no doubt has put many people off guard.
“Hailemariam wants to prove that there are no holy-cows,” said a senior official in the administration.
(Reuters) – Ethiopian police have arrested a minister and 11 other people on corruption charges, an official and state media said on Saturday, in the country’s most high-profile swoop against graft for more than a decade.
Businesses in the region regularly complain of corruption as an obstacle to their work. Transparency International ranked Ethiopia 113 out of 176 nations worldwide in its 2012 perception of corruption index, where No. 1 is considered least corrupt.
That ranking puts Ethiopia above most nations in the Horn of Africa and east Africa regions, although Rwanda is ranked 50.
Melaku Fenta, a senior ruling party member and director general of the revenue and customs authority with the rank of minister, was arrested on Friday alongside two other officials from the authority, government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said.
“They were under investigation on suspicion of corrupt practices,” Shimeles told Reuters, without giving details.
The spokesman said there were further arrests as well but did not give a total. The state news agency reported 12 arrests overall. Independently, newspapers said the arrests included a prominent businessman and customs employees outside the capital.
Global Financial Integrity last year said Addis Ababa lost $11.7 billion in outflows of illegal funds in the past decade.
Melaku is the most high profile suspect to be arrested on corruption charges since Siye Abraha, a former defense minister who was released in 2007 after six years behind bars. However, he was already out of government when arrested.
Melaku Fenta, director general of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA), Gebrewahed W. Giorgis, the most feared deputy of Melaku, and Eshetu W. Semayat, chief prosecutor of ERCA, were taken to custody by the Federal Police Commission around 5:00pm on Friday afternoon, May 10, 2013. They are three of the 16 suspects law enforcement agents apprehended, together with prominent businesspeople.
The Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission has announced that businesspeople such as Nega G. Egziyabher of Netsa Trading Plc; Ketema Kebede of K.K. Plc; Semachew Kebede of InterContinental Addis; and Mihereteab Abraha, brother of Seeye Abraha, are under custody suspected of crimes that is yet to be disclosed.
Other officials of ERCA include Asemelash W. Mariam, head of Kaliti Customs; Amignie Tagel, head of Nazareth Customs; and Tiruneh Berta, team leader of confiscated goods inspection have also been detained. Two transit company heads, Zerihun Zewdie and Marishet Tesfu, are among the suspects arrested late Friday.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Edmund Blair/Mark Heinrich)
The walia is a species of ibex found only in northern Ethiopia. Some 40 years ago, with fewer than 200 left, the walia was in danger of extinction. It remains an endangered species, but through conservation measures, numbers are increasing. Things are getting better.
The development of the walia’s home country – Ethiopia – is even most robust. As leaders from around the world gather in Cape Town, South Africa, for the World Economic Forum on Africa, they will be talking not about the wali but about countries like Ethiopia, and comparing notes on the challenges and opportunities they represent.
I left Ethiopia in the late 1980s as the country was gripped by a civil war. I returned one year ago as the representative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation based in Addis Ababa. The progress the country is making is evident. The number of children dying in Ethiopia has been reduced by over 60% between the time I left the country and today, with the situation continuing to improve.
As Bill Gates noted in his Annual Letter this year, “Today, Ethiopia has more than 15,000 health posts delivering primary health care to the farthest reaches of this rural county of 85 million.” Using the Millennium Development Goals as a measure, Ethiopia is on its way to meeting most of them by 2015.
The country’s economic growth has also been impressive. In the last decade or so, Ethiopia’s growth has been among the strongest in the world, partially due to better policies, increased productivity and an increase of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); private equity players are also increasingly active in Addis, while local entrepreneurs are expanding their operations.
In addition to this, the biggest change I have witnessed since my return may very well be that government, donors, the private sector and the public in general have realised that growth and prosperity can be achieved if the right policies and implementation strategy are put in place.
The country is no longer paralyzed by the complexity of challenges. This mental shift from “we can’t” to “we can” has dared a nation to dream big; to become food secure in a few years’ time, to build the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, and a new, robust, electrified railway system of 4,744 kilometers, to create light manufacturing industrial zones. Also, the significant improvements in the outcomes in the health and education sectors are critical to building a prosperous nation.
Ethiopia now knows it does not have to reinvent the wheel in its quest for prosperity. Looking to countries like India, Malaysia, China, Brazil, Turkey and others, Ethiopia can find successful models of newly industrialized economies that sustain impressive GDP growth over decades. Ethiopia is well positioned to escape the poverty trap. But it won’t be easy. Fundamental challenges to infrastructure, human and financial capital and the market need to be carefully addressed.
If we can bring the walia back from near-extinction, we certainly can build on the immense progress this nation has made and improve the health and lives of all people living in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia signed a contract Friday worth nearly $1 billion with a Chinese energy company to build two transmission lines linking the country’s largest dam to the country’s central power grid.
The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo.) signed the deal with China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company (CET) in the Ethiopian capital.
The three-year project, which will be fully funded by the Export-Import Bank of China, will start immediately.
EEPCo.’s CEO said the deal was a major step for Ethiopia’s energy sector.
“This is another milestone in (realising) Ethiopia’s development objective,” Miheret Debebe told reporters.
The two transmission lines, with a combined capacity of nearly 1000 kilovolts, will run over 700 kilometres to link the Grand Renaissance Dam to the main power grid near the country’s capital Addis Ababa.
Miheret urged CET to adhere to the timeline set out in the contract for the project’s completion, and admitted that securing funding for the large-scale project was a “challenge.”
As part of its ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), Ethiopia is developing its energy production sector with the aim of exporting power to neighbouring countries.
With a capacity of 6,000 MW, the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River is the largest of Ethiopia’s dams, most of which are still under construction.
Hydropower is set to be the largest energy provider, but wind, geothermal and solar projects are also underway.
The country has the capacity to produce 45,000 MW of power, more than the total amount currently consumed in all of sub-Saharan Africa, according to official figures.
The GTP seeks to boost economic growth in order to transform Ethiopia into a carbon-neutral, middle income country by 2025.
China is a major player in the Horn of Africa nation, heavily invested in manufacturing, energy, and transport industries.
Copyright © 2013 AFP
By Martha van der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — The United Nations Development Program has released its 2013 Human Development Index. Despite recent economic growth, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of the index.
Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, unveiled by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on Friday.
The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world.
Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index.
However, Samuel Bwalya, an economic advisor for UNDP, says that not only the ranking is important.
“I think what matters in the index is how you’re moving, your own human development progress within the country, so you’re moving from 0.275 to 0.378, that movement is what matters,” said Bwalya. “It means that your country is making progress in human development. Now the ranking depends on how other countries are also faring.”
This year’s Human Development Report focuses on the major gains made since 2000 in most countries in the global South.
UNDP believes sub-Saharan Africa can achieve higher levels of human development if it deepens its engagement with other regions of the South.
But those countries must overcome many challenges, such as low life expectancy, high levels of inequality and the growing threat for environmental disasters that could halt or reverse the recent gains in human development.
Bwalya says that government policies are central to human development in Ethiopia:
“The most important is to continuously commit to two policy arenas: the economic program in the country is robust and the government should have continuous commitment to development,” he explained. “The second is that it should continue the social protection program that has been so important in reducing poverty.”
While the Human Development Report and Index celebrate improvements across the developing world, a hard fact remains – 24 out of the 25 lowest ranked countries are on the African continent.
By Marthe Van Der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — A group of 150 Ethiopian doctors living abroad are constructing a hospital in their home country that will offer state-of-the-art medical treatment. This new hospital is designed to reduce the number of Ethiopians seeking medical facilities abroad.
The Ethio-American Doctors Group, an association of more than150 Ethiopian doctors in the diaspora, is realizing its dream: establishing an up-to-date hospital in their homeland that includes a medical school and a medical research center.
Dr. Yonas Legessa Cherinet of the Doctors Group said the new hospital will feature 27 medical specialties that currently are not offered in Ethiopia.
“There are a varieties of fields where service is very limited here. I could mention vascular surgery, urology, pulmonology, neuro-surgery and reproductive endocrinology, which is not available. So many doctors are coming in with so many specialities, there will be a core group of these specialists who will be coming here to lead some departments, to work here,” said Yonas.
The Doctors Group hopes that fewer Ethiopians will go abroad for medical help if they can be treated inside the country.
Currently, many Ethiopians that can afford better treatment go to Asia, the Middle East and South Africa. The Bangkok Hospital in Thailand treated more than 6,000 Ethiopians in 2011 alone. A lot of money is involved, as the average treatment costs about $20,000.
Dr. Zelelam Abebe, who works in a private clinic in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, said there is a large need for first-class medical services in the country.
“I had to refer several people to hospitals abroad for different cardiac surgeries, brain surgery and advanced cancer cases,” he said.
Dr. Yonas said that providing for Ethiopians who might otherwise go abroad means the hospital will have to be run differently – and better – compared to most other facilities in the country.
“The reasons they mention [for going abroad] vary from the quality of care to the way they are treated in respect. So we want to bring a new culture here of medical care, which will be patient-centered,” said Yonas.
But with an average yearly income of $1,200, most Ethiopians will not be able to afford the treatments offered at the new facility. Yonas said money will be raised for those in financial need.
”We also have what we call the EDG fund, which will be taking 10 percent of our profit for people who cannot afford quality service,” he said.
Tariku Assefa is a general practicing doctor who works at the Black Lion Hospital, the largest hospital in Ethiopia, which also includes a medical school. He welcomes the idea of the new hospital, but hopes the new research facility will focus on diseases prevalent in Ethiopia.
“We use most of the research that were done in the western countries. We take example from America or other western countries because those research is done there. In most of the disease entity we don’t have our own figures, we use the figures of other people, which is somehow biased because the one which is in the West may not work for us,” said Tariku.
The hospital is scheduled to open its doors by 2016 and employ 300 to 400 people, of whom 50 will be physicians. Some doctors from the diaspora will return to Ethiopia, while others will commit several weeks per year to an exchange of knowledge with the hospital.
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
February 14, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Ethiopian military source has told Sudan Tribune that the country has built the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone which could be used for multiple purposes.
A US military drone (Source: CIA)
After undergoing testing, the locally made drones, have demonstrated their capability of performing a number of militarily and civilian applications, according to the source.
Speaking on condition of anonymity from the country’s air force base in Debrezeit town, a military official told Sudan Tribune that the drones are equipped with onboard sensors, cameras and GPS to carry out cost-effective monitoring activities even across difficult landscapes like the highlands of Ethiopia.
Besides serving in a number of military missions – such as in monitoring border security – the UAVs will also be deployed to perform geophysical surveys, assist forest protection and monitor forest fires or other natural disasters.
The drones have already made test flights performing a geophysical survey of Ethiopia’s controversial grand renaissance dam, a massive hydro-power plant project the country is constructing on the Blue Nile River near to the Sudanese border.
In recent years, many African countries have shown growing interest in using drones as a cost-effective way to control huge infrastructure facilities, as well as areas rich in natural resources such as oil, mine and gas sites.
In 2011 Ethiopia signed an agreement with Israeli manufacturer BlueBird Aero Systems to purchase drones.
Binyam Tekle, a lecturer and researcher at a government university, says the development of indigenous drones is a great achievement for Ethiopia and will help strengthen the national army.
Due to Ethiopia’s long and fragile borders with Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and more recently South Sudan, he said it is timely for the country to use UAVs to monitor these shared and often tense and porous zones.
“With Eritrea-backed rebels and Somalia’s al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab terrorists repeatedly posing threats to national security, using UAVs will be crucial for Ethiopia to avert planned attacks,” he told Sudan Tribune.
Ethiopia is a key regional security partner to the United States particularly in the war on terror due to its proximity to Yemen and Somalia.
In 2011, the Obama administration launched a drone base in Ethiopia for counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, particularly to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the US has had a drone base in Saudi Arabia, with its existence kept secret by the US media in collusion with the Obama administration.
In recent years, Ethiopia has made tremendous achievements in the defence sector by managing to manufacture its own military equipment and defence systems.
On Thursday, Ethiopia marked its first ever Defence Force Day under the theme “Our constitutional loyalty and public nature would be preserved”.
A defence exhibition was staged in the heart of the capital, Addis Ababa, demonstrating the level of progress the nation has made.
Light and heavy modern weapons, as well as different vehicles manufactured by the army-run automotive industry were also displayed at the exhibition.
Government officials said that Ethiopia has built a defence force capable of breaking any internal or external enemy.
The Horn of Africa nation has one of the strongest army and air forces on the continent and often contributes troops to United Nations peace keeping missions.
Ethiopia spends around 2.4% of its GDP on the military.
Source Sudan Tribune
Which way to the mausoleum?
DURING his two decades running Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi almost single-handedly engineered its rise from lost cause to model pupil. Even his enemies admit he was both popular and competent. Often working around the clock, he could make complex policy choices and then explain them to ordinary people. He planned meticulously for everything—from road building to oppressing the opposition—except, that is, for his own demise.
It came six months ago on August 20th, following illness at the age of 57, and left the state reeling. Meles, as he is known, had grabbed so much power that many feared his death would spark political chaos and an economic downturn. He alone had the trust of the soldiers, the financiers, the Ethiopian people and the West.
But the transition to a new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has gone smoothly. The streets of Addis Ababa, the capital, have seen no unrest and the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) suffered no defections. A few audible grumbles were swiftly silenced. Rioting Muslims were beaten back. A minister was fired as were four regional officials in events that may or may not be related to the leadership change. Jockeying among the elite has been kept behind firmly closed doors. In public it espouses business as usual.
Instead of chaos, an eerie calm now hangs over the country. The old guard that once surrounded Meles, who hailed from the northern region of Tigray, remains in power. Winners of a 1980s civil war that toppled the dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Tigrayans have held on to top security jobs. Meles’s widow, Azeb Mesfin, who for a few months refused to move out of the prime ministerial palace, still controls a state-affiliated conglomerate, EFFORT. The number of Tigrayans in the cabinet has shrunk but key posts remain in the hands of ageing loyalists, many of whom fought alongside Meles. Talk of “generational change” over the past few years was seemingly a charade.
One of the few exceptions is the relatively young prime minister, Mr Desalegn. The 47-year-old is an articulate and experienced administrator as well as a former water engineer who studied in Finland. But he lacks his predecessor’s charisma and shrewd policy instincts. Though a former deputy prime minister (and former foreign minister) he is not an insider. He is a Protestant in a predominantly Orthodox Christian nation (his first name means “the power of Mary”). He is also an ethnic Wolaytan in a government dominated by Tigrayans. Meles, his mentor, may have chosen him for that reason, either to weaken ethnic divisions or perhaps to guarantee that ultimate power remains with his northern brothers-in-arms.
As the new chairman of the EPRDF, Mr Desalegn may eventually attain sufficient control to reshape the ruling party, but only if he survives long enough. For the moment he seems to have little room to manoeuvre, lacking his own power base in the security forces. He has publicly pledged to continue his predecessor’s work “without any changes”.
Those who know him say he is more comfortable with capitalism than many of the leftists around him. He was never a Marxist, but nor does he have an alternative vision for the country. Few Ethiopians know his name, though he does well internationally; he was recently elected chairman of the African Union. “We want him to be a leader not a follower,” says a progressive Ethiopian who occasionally meets him, but doubts his authority.
In his first six months in power, the prime minister has announced few new policies. Reform efforts are frozen. Economic liberalisation has been postponed at least until after elections in 2015. Party leaders seem unsure how to survive without Meles. They govern on autopilot, following the blueprints he left behind. Conformity of thought is common and new ideas are seemingly unwelcome.
Meles was so central to the Ethiopian state that his followers are trying to keep him alive with a Mao-style cult of personality. Even months after his death, Addis Ababa is still plastered with bereavement posters. They cover entire sides of buildings and run for hundreds of metres along fences. Banners declare “we will continue your work” and “we will never forget you”. The body of the former prime minister is buried under a tall granite arch next to Holy Trinity Cathedral where Haile Selassie, the last Ethiopian emperor, is entombed. New propaganda tracts depict Meles as a selfless leader who sacrificed his life for his country. His party is trying to wring as much legitimacy as possible from his legacy. It may be too early to speak of a post-Meles era—even in death he is the country’s most visible politician.
The future could yet be difficult. Without the former prime minister’s zeal, authority and attention to detail, the system he created could founder. Vested interests once kept at bay may reassert themselves. Reform projects could not just stall but break down irreparably. The fight against corruption and for economic progress will slow. Officialdom is already adrift, unsure of which way to turn. Only when the grizzled Tigrayan bosses at last step down might a new generation of leaders return to the ambitious experimentation that was an essential ingredient in Meles’s success. A move to genuine democracy, which he talked about but never dared to try, remains far off.
Ethiopia’s leaders are confused. They hail Meles as their country’s uniquely brilliant leader but act as if they can govern just as he did.
From the print edition: Middle East and Africa
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — It was a wild return to the African Cup of Nations for Ethiopia even though it failed to get past the group stage.
Two goalkeepers were sent off, the team’s federation was fined because of misbehaving fans and it scored its first tournament goal in 37 years in a surprising draw with defending champion Zambia.
Ethiopia was a win away from advancing to the quarterfinals but allowed two late goals against Nigeria in its final Group C match on Tuesday to finish last.
The northeastern African country ended its participation with one point and scored only one goal, but it still made an impression.
“We were happy to be here,” Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said. “What we are going to do now is learn from our mistakes and try to be one of the best teams in Africa in the coming years.”
Ethiopia won the African Cup in 1962 but hadn’t played in the tournament since 1982. The team arrived in South Africa with few expectations and players admitted they were just looking to gain some experience.
But after the surprising 1-1 draw with defending champion Zambia in the opener, there were hopes that Ethiopia could eventually move past the group stage. The goal was Ethiopia’s first in the tournament in 37 years.
Ethiopia also played well against Burkina Faso until its top players — Asrat Megersa and Adane Girma — had to leave because of injuries, eventually leading to a 4-0 loss. A victory over Nigeria could have still been enough, and Ethiopia was in contention until allowing the two late goals in the 80th and 90th minutes.
“Our main problem is experience. We tried to beat Nigeria and reach the quarterfinals, but unfortunately Nigeria was a better team, they are highly experienced,” Sewnet said.
Ethiopia Captain Degu Debebe agreed.
“They have a lot of experience compared to us because they’ve played in big tournaments, but I think we can give hope of a bright future to people at home. Anything is possible,” he said.
Goalkeeper Sisay Bancha was red carded in the match against Nigeria, repeating what had happed to regular starting goalkeeper Jemal Tassew in the opener against Zambia. Jemal was suspended for two matches for his reckless tackle.
The first match also cost Ethiopia a fine after fans started throwing vuvuzelas and other objects on the field to protest. The African federation gave Ethiopia a $10,000 fine, which was eventually cut in half for as long as similar incidents didn’t happen again.
In the following matches, Ethiopia fans carried a banner saying “We apologize for our behavior, but we love the game.”
Sewnet said he thinks the fans — who loudly supported the team in all three matches in South Africa — had plenty of reason to celebrate despite the team’s elimination.
“I think we can say our fans are all happy now because they have seen that their national team can play better football,” he said. “They didn’t see their team advance, but they were here seeing their team in a big tournament and I’m sure in the end they were very happy.”