Let’s Drive Change

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) is a passionate man who believes that we do not have to retreat to advance but advance to advance. It can be used as an exemplary strategy for success in leadership during growth. It is a powerful concept he has incorporated into how policymakers and business leaders must face up to challenges. It is an antidote that will heal the wounds of a nation that has been injured socioeconomically.

If we drown out the noise – the voices telling us that the mountain is too steep to climb – we can see clearly that we can advance. Agents of change around the world have done this during their span of leadership, especially just before and after their significant decisions.

While careful deliberation and consultation are always laudable, procrastination will kill the innovative spirit, not to mention it would leave us behind in the global race. It is a must that we assemble our strength, renew our strategy, take a risk and fight until we win.

The global completion has ramped up, and even some of our closest neighbours, such as Kenya, may soon prove hard to catch up to. In terms of technology, skilled workforce, and innovation, they are already ahead. This is because they had decided long ago to put themselves in the middle of globalisation and compete. That competition has not killed them, and what does not die becomes stronger.

This passion to join the global race is shared by Abiy in his endeavour to realise the growth and transformation plans of the nation. These positive developments are already being glimpsed in his willingness to develop ports in neighbouring countries, and a small but crucial step on liberalising the services of the telecom sector.

The momentum of change is transmittable, and Abiy’s desire for it is reaching the bureaucracy of government bodies. It is stimulating a change for the better, and if Ethiopia can find the courage to stay the course, there is no reason not to double productivity in the coming decades.

We should declare together a point of no return, and ramp regional economic integration and accession into international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Policymakers cannot avoid change for too long, for which we have already paid a hefty price. They should embrace it or, better yet, anticipate it.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate has averaged almost 10pc since the start of this decade. We have as well maintained regional leadership thanks to our relatively larger geographic, population and economic size. But we have never been the agents of change in the region we mean the most to.

Is this because we do not have the right mix of expertise and workable regulatory framework? Are our institutions lacking? Or do we not have the right strategic goals?

These need to be addressed if Ethiopia is ever going to be a worthy competitor.

Policy makers are often bogged down with attempting to prove the same failed policies – such as the devaluation of the Birr. The regulators are often too focused on policing the private sector instead of facilitating its growth. Our institutions are too politicised and overfilling with lack of innovativeness and skilled human power. The strategies sound nice but are too focused on where we should go rather than how.

Abiy must awaken a slumbering government that is too proud with its GDP achievements. There is a need to revise our policies and the tactics that have been employed thus far. The forex management needs to be made more flexible, our public sector needs to be streamlined, and monopoly enterprises at the helm of the commanding heights of the economy must be made to give space to private players.

The country’s fiscal policy and the unhealthy financial sector also need be addressed in due time. Public-private partnerships are how the government must continue with its infrastructure development.

Aspiring for a change, of course, will not mean much if not realised. Abiy is a good orator, but there remains no concrete evidence that he will embrace globalisation. He has been referred to as the reformer, but there is little indication as of yet if his reform agenda will include the economy.

The Prime Minister is an orator and using this skill he should convince leaders to build their confidence and embrace globalization. There is no better time to do this than now.

Without going too far, a huge economic advantage can be reaped from nearby nations. Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan and Egypt offer a market that is prime for the taking. To get a share, Abiy must mobilise private players.

To get, Abiy must be able to give. We cannot protect selected industries forever just as much as we cannot afford to stay out of the global race for too long. The government cannot endlessly protect selected sectors from a foreign investor and suffer from a shortage of currency and global knowledge.

By Asseged G. Medhin
Asseged G. Medhin is the deputy CEO of operations at the National Insurance Company of Ethiopia (NICE). He could be reached at kolass799728@yahoo.com.

Published on May 19,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 942]



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