Ethiopia Lags in Global Relevance

The population of Ethiopia is closing to 100 million. That is the number of human beings permanently residing in this nation of the conservatives, Ethiopia (according to a World Bank projection). All of these millions of individuals have their own, aspirations, joys, sorrows and setbacks. They have a multitude of cultures, languages, and faiths; a true melting pot, unlike any other.

But that is not how an investor, businessman or board of directors sees it. They do not see millions of individual men, women, and children. They see potential consumers of goods and services. I say “potential” because a population alone is meaningless. Only NGOs care about the number of poor people.

Two things determine the fortunes of a country.

The first is productivity, or the ability of a country to produce, create and sell. The reason America is such a wealthy country is because Ethiopians, Europeans, and Asians primarily consume goods made by American companies or individuals. This is where the real power of the country stems from.

The other most important thing for a country to have is a large population, with a healthy growth. Now, China and India’s billion-plus citizens are too much. A country with a very wholesome population, especially in relation to its inland area, is, again here, America. Another key to American domination of the world is that there are so many of them. The country is not just the greatest seller of goods; it is also the greatest buyer of goods.

Donald Trump’s election as the president of America scares the international community, especially because he upholds isolationist views. As America buys so many goods, if there are tariffs on imported goods to the country, then the global economy will lose its wealthiest, most prodigal customer.

Another increasingly important country to the world economy is China. Like America, it has been able to use its overabundant population as an advantage, by making the population rich and able to buy goods. Relatively, China is still a very isolationist country – even Facebook and Google are not allowed – but a deluge of physical merchandises are sold to the Chinese. Even to this day, the massive Chinese population continues to be something of a burden to the economy (for instance, imagine the number of pensioners), as opposed to an asset, the population growth has been well sustained.

The only thing that may end up bogging down China’s horse powered economic growth is the inflexibility of its Communist regime, which is more reliant on bureaucracy for its existence than logic or creativity.

India too has a booming economy, a booming output, and a huge population. As the middle-class population grows in wealth and overtakes the poor in proportion, India will become very wealthy. But then again, the nation has an unchecked population growth. It is said that by 2050, there will be close to two billion Indians. Rampaging expenditures in power generation, sanitation, and other public works may be the undoing of Indian growth.

Now, let us come back to Ethiopia. Imagine a scenario where the government shifts its attitude toward foreign trade and decides to employ isolationist policies.

Will the world really care?

Nope, even despite the fact that Ethiopia imports far more than it exports. Few international companies may feel the heat, but at the end of the day, they will move on without much of a hitch. After all, it contributes so little to the global economy. It is but a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper, with a presence that is so hard to notice.

It is obvious why. Ethiopia has the population, but not the economy to match it. It does not produce and sell as much as it should, either domestically or internationally. And if it does not sell, then that means it does not make money. The lack of money makes the nation poor, and fewer people will be middle class. The fewer middle-class citizens it has, the fewer people there are to buy goods, the less economic superpower it will be and the less the world cares what it decides to do.

Sweden, with its little-more-than nine million Swedes, wields far more economic, military and political power on the international stage than Ethiopia. But this was true for China and India too, just a few decades back. It all depends on the government, on how big a part they want to play in making Ethiopia productive (they say a lot, but actions speak louder than words).

More than that though, it will depend on Ethiopians. On how far they want to go, how imaginative they want to be and in how accepting of social changes they are. By 2050, there will be more than 140 million Ethiopians I wonder if the country will continue to be economically and politically on the marigine on the international stage.

By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye is a Film Critic whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling. He could be reached at

Published on Feb 13,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 876]



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