Breaking Through Barriers And Forging A New Ethiopia

As new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed breaks through the patriarchal structures of the past, his focus on Ethiopia’s strengths will take the country to the future.

Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, His Excellency Abiy Ahmed, has made bold moves since obtaining office. “If you want to go fast, go alone,” he says. “If you want to go far, go together.”

By embracing gender parity and appointing a new gender-balanced cabinet and Ethiopia’s first female president, Mrs Sahle-Work Zewde, Abiy Ahmed has made a monumental step forward for Ethiopia. On gender inclusion, President Zewde said: “It is very important for a woman to believe there is nothing she cannot do. Africa has really wonderful women to be celebrated. As Africans, we cannot be satisfied with what we have because we are not there yet. We need more women.”

The new Prime Minister and President represent hope for change. The youth of Ethiopia are impassioned with the belief that they can and will make a difference. Abiy Ahmed said, “The young generation of today should repeat the victory of Adwa by defeating current challenges and barriers.” Gender is no longer one of those barriers. Abiy Ahmed said of women: “Under numerous difficulty and trying conditions, you have built Ethiopia; you have made history; shaped generations; and brought us to this day. In your struggles, you have huge sacrifices so that we have a better country.”

In pursuing progress, the government has enacted Phase II of the Growth and Transformation Plan, which aims to convert Ethiopia from a poor, agricultural state to a middle income, industrialised economy by 2025. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa with over 100 million people. In 2017, its GDP expanded by 10.9% and is expected to grow by 8.5%, positioning Ethiopia as one of the fastest growing countries in the world.

Much of the growth that the country has enjoyed stems from the agriculture sector, the country’s strongest industry. Eighty-five percent of Ethiopia’s workforce consists of agricultural workers. Although a profitable sector, Abiy Ahmed has bigger plans. “Even though the progress being made in the agricultural sector is encouraging, we have failed to sufficiently support this sector with the necessary technology and as a result failed to collect the dividends that we were supposed to get from it as a country.”

For this reason, the GTP II is focused on combining agriculture with the rapidly growing manufacturing sectors through mechanisation. “Mechanisation lets you scale up your farming,” says Oumer Hussen, Minister of Agriculture. “In that regard, we are using the Agricultural Transformation Agency, which is introducing new technology for the sake of mechanisation. This will let us evolve from the traditional way of farming.”

The telecom sector has also experienced incredible progress in recent years. Frehiwot Tamru, CEO of Ethio Telecom, knows the importance of communication in an expanding economy. She states, “Telecommunication has a significant social, cultural and economic impact on modern society. It is fundamental for the economic development of any nation. I believe that the telecom market reform is to bring about economic growth of the country.” Ethio Telecom currently has 2G coverage in 85% of the country, 3G coverage in 22%, and select coverage of 4G in Addis Ababa, with plans to expand their networks toward 5G in the future. These statistics make Ethiopia among the leading countries in the continent in the telecom sector.

Dr Ing. Getahun Mekuria, Minister of Innovation and Technology, states, “as a government, we see [the sector] as a very good environment for creating jobs and wealth because it will unleash the power of the service industry. The GDP coming from technology will be huge.”

With the economy positioned to improve in the coming years, the finance sector is poised to ensure that investors are in the right hands. Ethiopian Insurance Corporation brings peace of mind and leads the insurance market with 43 years of experience, 1,500 employees and 102 branches in the country. CEO of EIC Netsanet Lemessa states, “we are financially strong. We are planning to invest more than ETB 200 million for IT infrastructure and software development.”

In addition, Awash Bank has worked diligently toward economic growth in Ethiopia for the past 25 years. Recognised as the fastest growing private bank in Ethiopia, Awash Bank works to service individuals, businesses, corporate customers and the public at large through its 400 branches, ATMs and especially through its dedication to financial inclusion. In working with the telecom sector, Awash Bank has made mobile and Internet banking more accessible and easier to use.

Enormous opportunities across various sectors in the country are garnering attention from investors worldwide. Abiy Ahmed says, “due to the fast growth that our country has achieved over the past years, our successes in poverty alleviation; in building basic infrastructure; in human resource development and the like are visible for everyone. In this regard, the government has taken policy and practical actions to contain price inflation; to stabilise the foreign exchange market; to keep the heath of the financial sector; to expand the reach and access of financial services needed for the economy; to generate foreign currency; to encourage savings and investment; to create employment opportunities; to increase the per capita income of the people as well as to reduce abject poverty.”

The GTP II envisions 11% average annual economic growth with an improved trade balance and higher foreign reserves. “The Prime Minister is working hard. He wants to bring change here,” states Tsehay Shiferaw, CEO of Awash Bank. “Within the next few years, Ethiopia will be changed. Look at the economic growth. The country is moving. The leadership is committed and strong and dedicated. Everything will come.”

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