In the past Ethiopia has been defined by famine, poverty and civil war. Yet it may come as a surprise to you that Ethiopia today could not be further from the Ethiopia that is portrayed to us by the media. In fact Ethiopia has experienced economic prosperity and is being hailed as an ‘African lion’. When you examine the figures you are left speechless; Ethiopia is creating millionaires at a faster rate than any country on the African continent; Ethiopia’s main industry, farming, has trebled over the decades, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, is currently undergoing a construction boom and in the last six year the nations GDP has achieved an astounding 93% growth.
So on paper Ethiopia is a model developing nation, one that all developing nations should follow. Call it the mercantilist in me but one cannot help but inquire what the price of this development has been. Let us begin with what has stimulated the flourishing of the economy. Multinational corporations (MNC’s) and private foreign investors from Saudi Arabia, China and India have made a land grab for some of the most fertile land in Ethiopia: acres and acres of land is being sold and leased by the Ethiopian government unto MNC’s for pittance. The reason for this perversion? Well the government reason that these investments will be beneficial to the locals as investments will be made towards infrastructure and social services. Yet these benefits are not stipulated in the contracts.
So while the Ethiopian government would like to portray this land for lease programme as a win for Ethiopia and its people and may point to the figures to corroborate its statement the reality is quite different. The Ethiopian people are not the winners in this situation but the losers. The Ethiopian people are having their land seized and resources exploited to benefit the MNCs, who will grow crops and sell them unto the global market not the local market. Furthermore land is the livelihood of many people in Ethiopia however as a result of this land for grab programme ‘villigasation’ is occurring. Villagisation is the displacement of people who have a generational bond to the land they currently occupy and are forced to relocate into artificial areas. Thus their customs are effectively demolished; arguably the Ethiopian government are violating international customary law.
MNC’s are once again emerging as the winners in the global economy; the acquisition of a vital resource such as land for pittance provides them the ability to increase their profits by a ludicrous amount. Profits then turn into lobbying power for MNC’s and that power can be exerted in any parts of the globe which will be used promote their own interests. Thus highlighting Marx’s point that capitalism is a self-sustaining system and by no means natural. All the while the Ethiopian people lose out in the global economy, they are deprived of their livelihood and human rights, they have no protection their own government has effectively tuned into an MNC; and even though the national GDP indicates economic growth the people remain in poverty due to wealth, the Ethiopian people’s wealth, being concentrated in the hands of a MNC’s and private foreign investors.