Is “Ethiopia in a Geopolitical Crisis”?

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      By Kalkidan Mulu Bitew*

      Ethiopia has been referred to as being in “transition” for the past four years due to major reforms within the ruling party and the appointment of the current Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali (PhD). The “transition” can be defined as a time of dynamic changes and critical events in which we have passed through many social, economic, and political changes.

      The article by Hagos Gebreamlak is written to demonstrate Ethiopia’s current geopolitical status in global and regional politics, and it states facts and evidences that show Ethiopia is now in a geopolitical crisis and declining in its geopolitical relevance. According to the article, Ethiopia has lost its geopolitical status as a result of both internal and external dynamics. The author presented the main points that led to the conclusion that Ethiopia is currently in a hegemonic crisis in the article. The critical points that were raised and analyzed to come to the conclusion are the GERD crisis and the following external pressures, American pivoting to the Indo-Pacific and the US Internal Dynamics, decline of Chinese concessional loans to Ethiopia, Coronavirus Pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war, Regional Geopolitical Rivalries and Ethiopia’s Vulnerability, and Armed Conflict and Instabilities

      The author elaborates on Ethiopia’s current confined state as a result of both international and local conditions. The article piqued my interest, to write a response essay stems from my desire to understand my country’s current situation as well as the future directions it is taking.

      The article depicts the historical milestones Ethiopia experienced during the new regime, as well as the point at which the new government lost support from the United States and international financial institutions. In my opinion, GERD is one of the flagship projects that can serve as a backbone for economic reform in Ethiopia. I agree with the argument that the suspension of aid and support promised by the US and international financial institutions is in one way or another related to the filling of GERD because the rival country opposing the filling is Egypt, a strategic ally of the US. Egypt’s fear of Ethiopia’s regional influence was reflected in the immediate implementation of sanctions and harsh measures that put Ethiopia under pressure. Even if aid and foreign assistance has never helped an African country develop, the immediate suspension of a country from such programs, particularly if the country has not developed the economic and political capacity to mitigate the immediate damage of such sanctions, aggravates the situation. Resilience as a sovereign country, particularly on issues that define a country’s political and economic independence, is an important measure; however, due to the complexity of global politics and the interdependence of states, it may cause geopolitical crisis, as argued in the article, unless strategically well planned and analyzed. The article explains that the GERD crisis and its followed external pressures, the conflicts particularly the war between the TPLF and the federal government tarnished Ethiopia’s relations with the West and multilateral institutions. Even though negotiations must not be conducted in such a way that we lose our political relevance, internal readiness and capacity building, as well as maintaining internal peace, were supposed to be priorities concurrently.

      Many argue that while Chinese massive loans to African countries appear to be an immediate solution, they result in long-term economic disasters. Even if I agree with Hagos’s assessment of the immediate geopolitical crisis and geo-economics deterioration, I do not believe that loan dependency will result in long-term economic achievements for Ethiopia. The external 30 billion dollars   loans that we have obtained thus far, rather than strategically focusing on building local economic strength, have resulted in us remaining a dependent nation. I believe that the massive loans that the EPRDF regime received and failed to properly utilize contributed more than being denied access to Chinese loans. As someone who has worked in the road construction industry, I am concerned about China being the major contributor of both finance and expertise in the country especially in mega infrastructure projects we have since according to my observations, Ethiopia’s reliance on imported knowledge and foreign construction companies has prevented it from developing the capacity of local stakeholders in the sector. Even if knowledge sharing is mentioned as one of the benefits of bringing in foreign experts, I have my doubts that it is actually happening on the ground.

      The new administrator’s proposal for “Homegrown Economic Reform” to transform the Ethiopian economy has been hampered by the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The tourism sector appears to be one of the major focus areas in which the new administrator was investing and paying attention, but the pandemic has forced the world’s tourism sector to be dormant for the time being. The essay has explained how the pandemic has devastated our economy, and I believe this is more or less a global reality than a case specific to Ethiopia.

      United Nations agencies are warning that price hikes sparked by the Ukraine-Russia war will worsen a food crisis in Africa.

      GENEVA, April 26 (Reuters) – U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said that close to 2 million children are at risk of starving to death as the Horn of Africa faces one of its worst droughts in decades.

      Parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are suffering their driest conditions in more than 40 years.

      The World Economic Forum has stated      that Africa, despite hosting 60% of the world’s arable land is still a major importer of food. Russia and Ukraine account for more than 30% of global grain exports. Russia also provides 13% of the world’s fertilizers, while Ukraine supplies half of all sunflower oil.

      The internal conflict in Ethiopia, which displaced farmers from their lands and shifted their focus to war and protecting their community, has also reduced local food production, which, combined with the food insecurity and risk posed by the Ukraine-Russia war, has led us to the current crisis.

      As stated clearly in the essay, I agree that unforeseen global events, as well as local social and political crises, have caused Ethiopia lose geopolitical relevance. What I disagree with is the approach that appears to suggest Ethiopia to accept foreign deals and agreements. The author proposed that the Ethiopian government should reach an agreement on the filing of the dam. I disagree with this particular suggestion of Hagos because it is a topic that needs to be strategically analyzed not only in terms of providing an immediate solution, but also in terms of the future economic and political position it will place us in. I second the writer’s conclusion that states Ethiopia should work to balance the external relations. In this day and age, no state is isolated, and it is critical that countries evaluate their external relationships critically in order to maintain their geopolitical relevance. As a sovereign country, any foreign agreements or deals we make must be in the best interests of the Ethiopia’s future. Rather than always being an uncritical ally to a super power, there is an option for being a dominant state. Ethiopia must devise strategies for becoming a strong state in global and regional politics.

      * Kalkidan is a Graduate Engineer by profession who is now being actively engaged in the Start-up and Business development areas. She has graduated from Addis Ababa University with a BSC degree in civil and environmental engineering and is now doing her MA in African studies (Stream: Human and Economic Development in Africa). Kalkidan is passionate about the business development sector in Africa and is currently involved in different private companies.

      Publisher’s Note: This contribution is part of a series of stories CARD publishes to encourage intellectual discourse among the youth in Ethiopia. If you want to make contributions or respond to this particular piece, please email your draft to us via

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