Ethiopia: the very mixed economic record of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the eve of the legislative elections

“Ethiopia: elections, yes … but everything remains to be done.” The title of the column published on the IRIS website is final. And it is true that after three years at the head of state, the record of Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize 2019, is very mixed. There are those, like the Prime Minister, who welcome Ethiopia’s first pluralist elections in the country, calling June 21, 2021 a “historic day”. And others who answer that“It’s historic for a lot of the wrong reasons. A catastrophic famine threatens Tigray. A genocidal war is condemned by the whole world. Ethnic cleansing, massacres and rapes by the thousands. The annexation by Eritrea and Sudan of a large part of the country. In three years, you have driven the country to the bottom of the abyss “, enraged an Ethiopian on Twitter.

It should also be remembered that the six million inhabitants of the Tigray region are not allowed to vote because of the conflict.

And if it is very likely that Abiy Ahmed wins the elections, it will be the tree that hides the forest, as all the lights are in the red economically. Inflation remains at a high level, around 13%, and particularly affects food products. A slight improvement, of course, when we know that the rise in prices has, for fifteen years, reached 39% annually.

An inflation which is explained by a colossal external debt which reached 29 billion dollars last December. It now represents a quarter of Ethiopia’s GDP and costs two billion dollars each year. You have to pay in foreign currency, when Ethiopia already imports a lot, including basic food products like oil and sugar.

The Ethiopian economy is still very statist, a vestige of alignment with the USSR in the 1970s. Suddenly, the private sector complains of not being able to access financing, the banking market being dried up by mega-works: Great dam Renaissance, railway line with Djibouti, etc. Work that is not all the fault of Abiy Ahmed, but of which he must assume the legacy.

The Reuters news agency paints a particularly bleak picture of the Ethiopian economy. “Por many foreign investors who celebrated it in 2018 (Abiy Ahmed), hopes of breaking into one of the world’s last great untapped markets are fading, stifled by slow reforms and sclerotic bureaucracy“.

20% of the population lives below the poverty line and ten million are unemployed. Per capita income is $ 850 and the goal of increasing it in 2022 to $ 1,125 seems unattainable.

The Prime Minister explained that the Covid-19 epidemic, but also the various conflicts, slowed down the implementation of the necessary reforms. The Covid in fact slowed down growth, which according to the IMF went from 9% in 2019 to 6.1% in 2020 and to 2% expected in 2021. The war in Tigray has led to the closure of factories, sometimes following looting.

This war did not help anything and now the threat of famine is reappearing. “The situation is expected to worsen in the coming months, not only in Tigray, but also in Afar and Amhara”, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock told the Security Council. “Two million people in the regions of Tigray, Afar and Amhara are on the verge of falling into starvation in their turn”, added Mark Lowcock.

Displaced residents of Tigray wait to receive food aid at a school in & nbsp;  Shire Town, March 15, 2021 (BAZ RATNER / X02483)

An analysis contested by Addis Ababa. “We strongly disagree with this assessment” on famine, Ethiopian Ambassador to the UN Taye Atske Selassie Amde said. The United Nations has collected data in a “non-transparent and inclusive”, he explains.

A denial which can be explained by the approach of the elections. Such a debate would be very embarrassing for Abiy Ahmed, further tarnishing his image. That of a Nobel Peace Prize turned into a warlord.

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