A nation’s growth might not always signify the situation in its constituent regions. The same could be said about Oromia. Despite its land size and resource endowment, it is not well served with expected service provisions. Things seem to have started to change, though. The construction of Yayu Fertiliser Factory could be a game changer in this regard.
President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) and his entourage had paid a visit to the western part of Ethiopia two weeks ago. The visit signifies the government’s realisation of the urgency to exert every possible effort to optimise the amount of foreign currency reserve the country should have, either by way of improving the country’s export earnings or by way of import substitution. The presidential tour had focused on both the optimisation aspect and the import substitution.
Export of processed coffee and the plan to establish a fertilizer producing company at Yayu, 581Km west of the capital, satisfy both aspects. This is not to speak about the much more important ethno-geopolitical impact the tour might have.
Whether one likes it or not, it is a national truth today that Oromia is not only the most populated, but also the most endowed with natural resources, including precious stones that make some indents in the world market. Critics add that most of the prisons and their occupants are also found in the same region.
Some wonder why the Ethiopian military structural hierarchy does not reflect either the number of the population or the economic contribution of the region to the national treasury. By all accounts, the region had remained the lactating cow of the aristocracy for years on end.
That takes me back over four decades when I had to make an economic survey for the installation of telephone network in the region. I remember there was not much recorded material to suggest who came there to settle first and why the land tillers had to be subservient to the land lords and what rights did they have to own some property there.
On a national level, Western Oromia Zone had very little share of the budget for any kind of modernisation except for the transitory link of asphalt road up to Bonga. About three decades ago, Bedele Brewery was established. I had visited the factory and I remember having resentment in regards to why a brewery was given priority instead of dairy production or something else productive.
The planned fertilizer factory at Yayu, in the proximity of Mettu, if it is realized in earnest, shall be the first productive investment in the area. The brewery has only been a consumable producer.
The Yayu Fertilizer Factory, on the other hand, is going to be productive. The basic economic implication will be import substitution. The foreign exchange required to pay for the import of fertilizers would be saved.
Backward and forward linkages would have significant socio-economic implications around the factory. President Mulatu has also said that Yayu shall soon grow into a planned small town where town planners and architects shall use their knowledge to plan an ideal town for settlement by both farmers of the surrounding villages and the factory workers.
Packaging firms making use of the farming products and transiting infrastructure as well as the construction of massive warehouses to be used as stores can be established at strategic spots. Small delivery vans or even horse-driven carts could be used to deliver house-to-house services. The cost of the fertilizers shall be reduced to an affordable minimum, which shall be reflected on the price of food in the country.
The residual by-products of the factory may induce the establishment of other factories, which eventually reduce the cost of import.
By virtue of it being very large, the regional state has also benefited from the government’s distributive growth policy. Many universities have been opened in many zones of the region.
There is no denying the fact that a few high profile political positions are filled by Oromo individuals. But that does not entail equitable power distribution commensurate with the population number and the economic contributions made by the region.
Oromia is not represented proportionally down the line of governance in all the offices of the bureaucracy. It is hoped that the recent visit of the president and the socio-economic implication of the focus on their processing of coffee production and the Yayu fertilizer manufacturing plant could be streamlined into the right track.
Could the oncoming political election make any indent?
Some people may argue that the industries established in the country so far are located in the region. But this is mainly because of the proximity of the capital and the advantages drawn from the existing infrastructure conducive to the industries and their ability to dispose them to the nearest market or outlet for export.
But the Yayu project is hoped to be a game changer in the transformation process of changing the subsistence farming into productive commercial farming with better yields and more employment opportunities for the youth who could be graduates from these institutes of higher learning.
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