What is the political demographics of Quora


Stefan Brüne

To person

holds a doctorate in political science and, after visiting professorships in Paris and Addis Ababa, worked as a political advisor to African regional organizations in Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan.

The African continent is facing forward-looking changes. By 2050, the number of people living in the 55 member states of the African Union (AU) will double to over two billion. Whereas in 1950 only 10 percent of all newborns worldwide were born in Africa, by 2040 it will be over 30 percent. Half of the African population is expected to be under the age of 18 by 2050. [1] The demographically promoted change goes hand in hand with accelerated urbanization, the increasing influence of the growing middle classes, an impressive mobile phone boom and previously unknown political challenges. The number of inhabitants belonging to the urban middle class who have a daily income of 5 to 20 US dollars is likely to multiply soon. The increased interest of Europe and China in Africa also shows that the political and economic importance of the continent, which has long been described as poor and underdeveloped, is growing.

Meanwhile, the "Agenda 2063" adopted by the AU provides for integrative growth, sustainable development, good governance, peace and security, shared cultural values ​​and the development of the continent to be determined by the population. [2] It is important to overcome the traditional interplay of poverty, inequality and weak state institutions in a way that is development and future-proof. The first projects have already been initiated. These are intended to help reduce the continent's dependence on the outside world, which is perceived as humiliating, after over 70 percent of the AU budget had been provided by external partners by 2016. In 2018, 44 African countries signed a continental free trade agreement designed to accelerate internal African development processes. Since the turn of the millennium, Africa's trade with the rest of the world - especially the exchange with China and India - has more than tripled. [3] Dependencies that have grown historically or were enforced by colonial rule are becoming less important, albeit to a different extent socially and regionally.

What does all this mean for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia? On the one hand, the second most populous African country is seen as an up-and-coming, economically impressively successful regional power that has initiated state-controlled progress with clear objectives - expansion of the manufacturing industry, export orientation, agricultural industrialization. On the other hand, the multi-ethnic state with an annual per capita income of around 950 US dollars is still one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Bank, around 30 percent of the Ethiopian population lives below the poverty line, and in the United Nations Human Development Index 2019 the country ranks 173 (out of 189). [4]

At the same time, the unexpected is happening for a long time. Since taking office in April 2018, the young Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, who himself belongs to the Oromo population, initiated the end of the political dominance of the Tigray, released thousands of political prisoners and made it his mission to fight corruption effectively through reforms. In addition, he ended the conflict with Eritrea, which was full of victims, spoke out in favor of greater promotion of democracy and human rights, and suggested better cooperation between the sometimes divided ethnic groups. His streamlined cabinet consists of ten men and ten women, including - unique in the world - a "Minister for Peace".

Despite attempts to forcibly remove him from office, [5] Abiy has so far managed to maintain the reform course. However, with a view to the next parliamentary elections, the registration of political parties is proving difficult. On the one hand there are claims to influence by ethnically motivated actors who want to form their own constituent states, on the other hand, frustration has spread among the Tigray as a result of their loss of power. The Prime Minister, who has declared that he will be available for a maximum of two terms, is nevertheless optimistic about these problems and the election: "Be it this year's election or the next, it is impossible to hold an election in Ethiopia without it that there are problems or challenges. Democracy is a constant practice and a culture - and it is by practicing it, by voting, and not by running away from it. "[6] That because of the August 2020 election date The corona pandemic recently had to be postponed indefinitely, he could not have foreseen.

In view of the recent developments under Abiy and the fact that Ethiopia's economy has been one of the fastest growing in the world for years, the country is more than ever considered a "model state" in Sub-Saharan Africa. [7] The interest of foreign investors is correspondingly great. However, their "development commitment" is not without controversy: Persistent displeasure provokes, for example, the generous leasing of agricultural land to foreign companies, which is often referred to as "land grabbing" (land grabbing) is criticized. In the following I will look at the examples of Chinese, Saudi Arabian and European Africa and Ethiopia policies in order to show how they affect the Ethiopian economy and which conflicts of interest and competition are associated with them.

China's Africa Policy

The times when China's Africa policy was limited to the support of Confucius Institutes are long gone. A few decades of Chinese engagements have left their mark more clearly than half a century of Western "development aid". In 2011 the People's Republic overtook the USA as Africa's most important trading partner. The volume of the exchange of goods has increased twenty-fold since the beginning of the millennium from 10 to over 200 million US dollars, and over 2500 Chinese companies are active in 54 African countries. Over a million Chinese live and work in Africa.

Beijing is pursuing a strategy that clearly differs from Western-style cooperation: Instead of relying on "classic" aid projects, the Chinese commitment is reflected in increased trade and more direct investment. While critical voices warn of the undesirable consequences of authoritarian cooperation and refer to widespread corruption, numerous African observers highlight the successes of forced modernization, which have been described as impressive. The principle of non-interference in internal affairs and the avoidance of contact with influential non-governmental organizations have proven their worth. According to surveys by the independent Afrobarometer Institute based in Accra, Ghana, over 60 percent of Africans rate the Chinese presence as "positive" or "rather positive". [8]

Strategically, the People's Republic is trying to promote the construction of its own industrial parks in a second step by strengthening trade relations and investing in local production, which Ethiopia supports through tax exemptions, among other things. [9] The traditional focus on securing raw material sources is giving way to exploring the African potential to become a location for standardized industrial production. The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which was founded in 2000 and takes place every three years, has proven to be an important instrument in this context, through which Beijing also tries to campaign internationally for African issues. The Chinese government makes no secret of its own interests, which observers commented benevolently almost ten years ago: "For decades, China has been emphasizing mutual benefit as a basic principle of its aid. This is more sincere than the assurances of many Western donors who support humanitarian and development-oriented issues Advocate goals as the sole award criteria and still pursue their own economic and political interests. "[10]

Ethiopia is currently the second largest recipient of Chinese African loans after Angola. In its capital Addis Ababa ("New Flower"), with a population of over four million, the results of projects promoted by the Chinese can be observed particularly clearly: the electrified light rail system, which is used by around 30,000 people every hour, the multi-lane expressways and the modern suburban housing developments also apply as showcase projects of successful cooperation such as the rapidly completed railway connection between Addis Ababa and Djibouti City. [11] The rapid urban development also has its downsides, [12] but overall Prime Minister Abiy is satisfied with the Ethiopian-Chinese cooperation. In autumn 2018 he said on Chinese state television: "China has so far been a very important and strategic partner in our development endeavors. It is about the transformation of the Ethiopian economy through investments, trade, grants to promote knowledge and know-how. China supports us very good at this transformation. "[13]

Saudi Arabia's mediation policy

In addition to China, Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Ethiopian project and future planning. Until recently, around 500,000 Ethiopians lived in the financially strong kingdom, in which a third of the 35 million inhabitants have Asian roots. Most of them - Saudi Arabia is one of the most important sales markets for Ethiopian products alongside the USA and Switzerland - had left their homeland mainly for economic reasons. Many of them had entered illegally and were directly imprisoned, which prompted Saudi Arabia to organize large-scale deportations: According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), around 260,000 Ethiopians were deported between May 2017 and March 2019, some of them from serious human rights violations reported. [14]

Still, Saudi-Ethiopian relations are generally good. In recent years, Riyadh can also point to unexpected successes in its regional peace efforts. After years of violent border disputes, the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea agreed in September 2018 on a more peaceful future. [15] The agreement brokered by Saudi Arabia, which was signed by Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's long-term president Isayas Afewerki in the presence of King Salman ibn Abd al-Aziz in Jeddah, is intended to mark the end of hostility and represents an "era of peace and friendship" Prospect. [16] In addition to the resumption of diplomatic relations and the bilateral movement of people and goods, the activation of direct telephone connections, the opening of a jointly operated free port (Massawa) and daily scheduled flights between Addis Ababa and Asmara were agreed. The Ethiopian Prime Minister had previously announced that he wanted to leave the long-disputed border area around Badme to its northern neighbor. Although the contractual details of future cooperation are not yet publicly known, the prospect of cooperation should be beneficial for all parties involved.

Ethiopia, which, as a landlocked country, has handled up to 95 percent of its foreign trade via ports in neighboring Djibouti in the past few decades and had to spend up to 1.5 billion US dollars annually on this, hopes that the peace agreement will provide cheaper, tax-free access to the Red Sea . In fact, Eritrea recently reopened its ports to Ethiopian ships, while Italian investors have announced that they want to support the maintenance and use of the ports of Massawa and Assab logistically and financially. The European Union has also promised 20 million euros for the renovation and expansion of the ailing Eritrean infrastructure.

UN Secretary General António Guterres, who also attended the signing in Jeddah, witnessed a "historic event" and welcomed the "wind of hope" that is now blowing in the Horn of Africa. At the end of 2018, the United Nations even suspended an arms embargo that had been imposed on Eritrea nine years earlier because it was said to have supported Somali Islamists in the fight against Ethiopia. In the meantime, Djibouti and Somalia have resumed their long-interrupted diplomatic relations with Eritrea, and Asmara has announced that it will again actively participate in the plans and projects of the Northeast African regional organization IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development).

The peace agreement was a diplomatic success not only for Saudi Arabia, but also for the United Arab Emirates, which had been involved in the mediation in the background. In this way, both Gulf states were able to distinguish themselves as regional powers and were able to advance their own investment projects in Eritrea and Ethiopia. [17]

Europe's profile search

Africa's demographic change, as well as China's growing influence and successful policy of non-interference in domestic affairs, are confronting European actors with unprecedented challenges. It is important to reconsider historically outdated perceptions and treaties such as the Cotonou Agreement, which expired in February 2020 and which shaped European-African trade relations for 20 years, in a generational and future-oriented manner. In the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020, both an EU-China and an EU-Africa summit are planned for September and October. For Germany, sub-Saharan Africa, apart from a few countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, was of secondary importance for a long time - this has changed in recent years. [18]

The draft of the recently published new EU-Africa Strategy reveals the intention of a partnership-based, dialogue-oriented cooperation, taking into account own and mutual interests. General and regionally-related goals and partnerships should complement each other: "The goal is to strengthen cooperation in five key areas: green transition, digital change, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance, migration and mobility." [19]

The "Compact with Africa" ​​(CwA) initiative launched in 2017 under the German G20 presidency relied on a "partnership on an equal footing" and increased private investment. [20] But non-governmental organizations have long been calling for greater involvement of local social actors: The CwA plans to focus on investment partnerships with Egypt, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia however, it relies heavily on economic liberalization and lacks an informed understanding of inner-African complexity. [21] Ethiopia is an interesting example, because on the one hand the country is considered successful and reform-oriented, on the other hand it is kept in suspense by increasing protests related to poverty and reform. Semir Yusuf, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, still recognizes an unsolved "democracy and security dilemma" that requires decisive and at the same time inclusive measures. [22]

In addition - keyword land grabbing - that numerous measures have so far often primarily benefited foreign investors and are therefore only suitable to a limited extent for using Africa-centered projects. Instead of strategically and coherently linking humanitarian, development policy, peace and security policy measures, the main focus is on exploring the possibilities of increasing intercontinental trade, offering foreign investors framework conditions that could hardly be more favorable. In Ethiopia, only a few US dollars per year have to be paid per expropriated hectare, making the lease - the term is up to 100 years - one of the cheapest in the world. Since 2007, more than 800 contracts have been concluded for the leasing of land that is traditionally used by subsistence or small farmers. The negotiations are not very transparent, official information about the content of agreements is the exception, which is why the true extent of the land grab is difficult to grasp. The declared goal of the Ethiopian government is to lease three million hectares to foreign investors, with the focus on the Gambela and Oromia regions. One million hectares have already been leased, most of them to Indian and Saudi interested parties. [23]

From a European perspective, it will therefore also be important in future for your own profile in Ethiopia to work for more participation of the Ethiopian population in all economic commitment that is to be promoted.

Ethiopia's future

Ethiopia's foreign trade and investment-driven change is accompanied by unprecedented social and political challenges.The economy, which has long been characterized by subsistence economies [24], has been heavily criticized with its rapidly growing cities and low-priced industrial parks land grabbing and faced a challenging generation change. The employable population will grow by two million workers annually until 2030. [25] From the point of view of the Ethiopian administration, which is close to the government, reforms to modernize the country - a large part affects the manufacturing industry - must be accompanied peacefully and, if possible, amicably, taking into account regionally and socially different traditions.

Low labor productivity remains a central problem. In addition to noticeable absenteeism and high labor turnover, traditional land use rights also play a role, the reform of which is proving to be conflict-prone. For example, Ethiopia's smallholder subsistence producers traditionally had no land ownership, but only temporary rights of use. If a large part of the population is not to be ignored, it must be possible to promote domestic production without endangering the livelihoods of impoverished subsistence farmers and smallholders at the same time. It makes no sense to lease land that has traditionally been cultivated by small farmers to foreign investors, only so that they can then be used for the subsidized cultivation and export of cut flowers to Holland and are no longer available for growing food - with the result that food is imported have to. In Ethiopia, eight to ten percent of the agricultural land is now believed to be in the hands of foreign investors. [26]

Different perspectives compete in the search for solutions: While development-policy non-governmental organizations are calling for the land rights of smallholders to be strengthened, actors close to the government are in favor of a partial liberalization of agricultural production. The latter could reduce unemployment and increase production yields, but would ultimately solidify the system of state-subsidized imports of food. The majority of the employed Ethiopians who earn 60 to 70 cents a day are still dependent on food donations. Many fear that they will lose their traditionally agricultural livelihood and have to experience that their ancestors' land is being cultivated by strangers. In a country where seven out of ten people make a living from agriculture, the observable land grabbing of large foreign companies is an existential threat to many. The desired creation of a "good investment climate" leads to massive displacement and expropriation-related conflicts and favors new dependencies in the form of external food aid.

While European governments are concentrating on trade, investments and the transition to a carbon-neutral digital economy, the Ethiopian government is faced with the challenge of accompanying its domestic and foreign trade in a regional, resource, future and generational way. The country's impressive earlier developmental successes were often accompanied by repressive state power; avoiding this is another challenge. For success, three factors will be of particular importance, cum grano salis: First the economic consequences and the development of the prospective pan-African free trade zone on the basis of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), [27]Secondly the emerging generation change in Ethiopia, and third the hope for a more influential, politically conscious middle class that comes with urbanization and increased media use.

With a view to future developments, country experts describe two contrasting scenarios for Ethiopia: the "Abiynomics" to be hoped for and the imminent "Dark Days". The positive scenario named after the Prime Minister holds out the prospect of overcoming widespread poverty and chronic malnutrition, the gradual liberalization of key economic sectors, the sustained increase in domestic and foreign investment, an end to the educational disadvantage of women, a higher per capita income and higher life expectancy . The "Dark Days" scenario, on the other hand, foresees an abrupt period of political instability after controversial elections, which goes hand in hand with ethnically motivated violence, rising military costs, restricted civil rights, regionally promoted problems with Egypt, Eritrea and Somalia, high foreign debts and a rise in extreme poverty . [28]

Despite strong self-interest and strong financial development support from external actors such as China, Saudi Arabia and the European Union: which path Ethiopia will ultimately take will be decided in Addis Ababa.