Change from Farming to Industry Herculean Task

Can Ethiopia be transformed into an industralized nation?

Two schools of thought are battling this debate, which includes political elites who argue the changeover can happen quickly, while their opponents argue otherwise.

Ethiopia’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. About 83pc of the total population is an agrarian society and dependent on subsistence agriculture and still farming with oxen and yoke. For millennia, agriculture has been the backbone of Ethiopians’ survival.

The agricultural system is dependent on rainfall and harvesting is an annual event.

The argument for rapid industralization is based on the assumption that oxen farming and rain dependency lead to no long-term solution to lifting the country out of poverty and middle-income status.

On the other hand, since Ethiopia has crafted the right agricultural policy and strategy, the agricultural economy can be transformed to industrialized society gradually. To take a fair stance on the argument, it is very crucial to look at the fact on the ground. One cannot deny the reality that Ethiopia’s agriculture is based on an archaic form of production unsuited to the 21st Century.

In my opinion, there are two reasons to follow industralization. One, the geographical settlement of the society itself and the topography of the landscape is not suitable for apply modern agricultural tools such as tractors. Secondly, we have not followed appropriate comprehensive strategies to modernize agriculture so far.

The government of Ethiopia has recently tried to articulate an agricultural policy and strategy aimed at improving and transforming agriculture and transitioning to industrialization. The implementation of this policy has had some issues. To change the economy structurally, Ethiopia is trying its best to formulate, design and implement different strategies and tactics of the agriculture sector. To improve the agricultural sector, there are development aid extension workers who support, advise, introduce modern technologies and train local farmers on how to use an improved agricultural system by establishing Farmers Training Centers (FTCs). This is backed by providing fertilizers, selected seeds, and modern and improved agricultural technologies for local households.

When we look at the modern societies transformed from agriculture to sophisticated industry, establishing cooperatives, basic associations and unions within and from the society is the driving force to speed up the transition. These cooperative agencies from wereda to federal level, basic associations, and unions, are the pillars of the agricultural transformation and tools of poverty reduction in the broad-based pyramids. They extend from local households to farmers and are the means to distribute agricultural inputs fairly and easily.

Moreover, cooperative agencies and unions are buyers of agricultural products from each member farmer and are used as a market opportunity by limiting unnecessary chain of the market brokers. This helps the farmers to get a fair price for their items. Of course, there are challenges of lack of support and institutional organization along with educated manpower, lack of infrastructure, rent seeking and actions faced by cooperative agencies and union leaders. It has to be addressed and given due emphasis by appropriate regional and federal government bodies to let them serve up to the demand of the farmers with strong capacity.

To create a real agricultural transformation to industrialization, specific issues have to be emphasized. The most important and key factor is emancipating the sector from rainfall dependence and formulating multiple agricultural development strategies and options.

These actions include: using wide-spread small scale irrigation agriculture for each household, strengthening cooperatives and unions to provide improved agricultural inputs and widening access to market opportunities for the products, creating and strengthening micro and small scale industries (that are vital create job opportunities for youths) and can consume agricultural inputs for their production of goods and services. It is also important to connect regions, and weredas by modern infrastructures such as roads, electricity, and water to ease economic transactions all over the country.

The other pillar is focusing on economic diplomacy. It is one of the best complementary to domestic business models that fills the gaps based on the assessed needs and research to bring and introduce advanced technologies, knowledge transfers, attract foreign direct investments on different sectors, invest on market intelligence and look for vast market destinations for agricultural products. In this model, economic diplomacy would be at the epicenter of Ethiopian foreign affair and national security policy and strategy.

Equally, building integrated agro-processing industrial parks would be decisive to bring about structural change in the economy. These agro-processing industrial parks would aim to add values on agricultural and animal products for export market.

Currently, Ethiopia plans to establish four integrated agro-processing industrial parks in different parts of the country. When these parks start to function, they can feed more than 60 industries that can absorb hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for the youth population.

Structural transformation of the Ethiopian economy is not an easy task and requires massive and aggressive implementation of paper works on the ground. Since it focuses on transforming the lifestyles of the agrarian society to an industrialized one, it needs a big effort to bring attitudinal change, urbanization of societal settlement, strong economic integration between and within the regional states, and developing a sense of unity and belongingness as well as patriotism. These all cannot be achieved overnight but requires strong institutional capacity and patriotic public-private industriousness of fellow Ethiopians.


By Shewaye Mern
Shewaye Mern is a Business Information & Analysis Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Shewaye can be reached at

Published on Feb 18,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 876]



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