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We need more than roads and skills
WRITTEN BY MOSES KHISA
Published in the Observer
Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s leader from 1991 until his death in August 2012, was arguably the most intellectually-astute contemporary African leader.
He had an unusual grasp of the political foundations of development and the economic bases of politics.
At the height of the push for neoliberal policy-reforms of economic liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation across the African continent, Meles resisted policy dictates of Western donors and international financial institutions.
In challenging International Monetary Fund and World Bank economists, Meles was readily armed with a clear command of economics theory and a firm understanding of the actual historical record of growth and development around the world.
For example, in many of his writings, he persuasively reasoned that the IMF and World Bank trumpeted approach of leaving everything to the workings of the “free market” was theoretically wrong and empirically nonexistent.
He further argued that the idea that the state must be confined to the role of a night watchman, with no role in influencing economic activities, was theoretically unjustifiable and practically untenable.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, including our own President Museveni, Meles went beyond the loaded rhetoric of castigating Western donors and lenders for being ignorant about Africa yet arrogantly imposing policies.
In highly-robust intellectual debates, he took on the self-declared experts on African underdevelopment and challenged them on their misguided policy prescriptions.
But he did more. He insisted that reform policies would be adopted and tailored to reflect the peculiar needs of Ethiopia instead of embracing a one-model-fit-all, crafted from the distant corridors of Washington or Geneva.
In the end, Ethiopia is among the very few African countries that rejected sweeping privatisation and avoided haphazard economic liberalisation. The current outlook of Ethiopia’s economy reflects Meles’ unwavering stance: foreign capital is unwelcome in the banking and insurance sectors, the telecom sector remains state-owned, very high public investment, etc.
The capital Addis Ababa is a “construction site,” as one Ethiopia friend put it. Soon Addis will have something hard to find in African cities: a mass transit train service. With a cautious liberalisation approach and a measured privatisation policy, Ethiopia does not suffer from the ills of fake and petty “investors” that we are grumbling about in Uganda.
The reports of foreign investors abusing and humiliating Ugandan employees that have become legion are a consequence of the rushed policy-reforms of the 1990s. What’s more, the current debate, focusing on the need for skills training or what advocates have dubbed “Skilling Uganda” versus prioritizing physical infrastructure, especially roads, misses something to which I return below.
Recently, President Museveni was categorical in telling off striking teachers and lecturers that his government’s priorities were roads and electricity and not salary increments, which he rightly characterises as funding consumption (never mind that no one beats him in consumption).
Critics reminded the president about the necessity of a literate and skilled population for the roads and electricity to be optimally utilised. It’s not either or, it’s both. The president is singularly focused on attracting the ever-elusive foreign investors, thus his commitment to removing impediments to doing business, including our poor roads and low electricity supply.
But something is amiss in this debate. It’s not enough to have a skilled population, a well-developed road network and adequate electricity supply. These stand hanging without a proper institutional framework and value system that harnesses skills and optimises physical infrastructure.
Without a merit-based system that rewards skilled labour, there is no incentive to acquire skills. Without a change in thinking and attitude towards productivity, skills or no skills could mean the same thing. And in the absence of institutions that facilitate adoption and diffusion of technology, physical infrastructure will be underutilised if not misused.
It’s not enough to have a road. You can have one that is used to sun-dry corn and cassava for domestic consumption as evident along the Mbale-Tirinyi road. You may have electricity but without the requisite technology to propel productivity; economic stagnation will reign.
The highly-profit-driven private sector and self-interested individual entrepreneurs cannot bring about the kind of technology that can easily diffuse and spread across the economy. From the point of view of a business enterprise, it doesn’t make business sense to acquire new technology which quickly spreads out and benefits others including direct competitors.
Yet this is precisely what a poor country like Uganda needs. We need technology to be a public good just like a road, such that all producers can access it to enable increased production and productivity. For this to be possible, we need the strong presence of an activist state, not a night watchman state contrary to the neoliberal articles of faith.
We also need the institutional apparatus to filter through investors that bring value to the economy. We need more and not less regulation.
The foreign owned vehicle-bonds, one of whose staff attracted public outrage for sexually abusing a young Ugandan woman, do not bring much to a country that desperately needs to concentrate resources in real production and value addition.
The author is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago-USA.
What a great tribute to our brilliant leader the great Meles Zenawi. Thank you brother Moses.
This is a salt on the wounds of almaria, the fake professor, who cannot forget his humiliation and inferiority filled hatred he harbor towards the great Meles Zenawi. Almaria and the rest of diaspora so called opposition intellectuals will die haunted by the shadow of the legacy of Pm Meles.
The legacy of our brilliant leader the great meles Zenawi lives on!
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”
- Harry S. Truman
i know exactly what you want is “siltan” which you will never get it. power is for the people by the people.
don’t hate the player hate the game because you sack at it
Mr Khisa, the dead Meles was a tribal tyrant filled with hatred to his own people. He was not even an ordinary dictator. You have to learn about a balanced analysis first before writing about a country and an evil individual and his clique you know little of. As you rightly pointed out later in your article, the roads and the buildings are not our priorities. Human dignity and freedom come first for human beings in general and us Ethiopians in particular. Have you ever noticed how many Ethiopians flee the country everyday and perish in sea waters and die in the Sahara desert? How many have ended in the prisons of African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, etc? How many died of suffocation in containers loaded on trucks? As a journalist/columnist, have you ever asked why this is happening at an increasing rate despite the bogus 11% economic growth in the past several years? Tell me if Ugandans flee their home country in mass, though your economic growth is much lower? Dictators are dictators. Meles, Museveni, Mugabe, Mengistu, name all M’s you have. They are cancers to the ordinary Africans. They have to go and a new generation of leadership has to come. Africa should no more carry these blood suckers.
I am sorry but I beg to differ. You don’t exactly what Mr Zenawi has done. Praising someone like him as he was some sort of genius was completely wrong. I can tell you why:
1. Mr Zenawi divided my country along ethnic line and his utmost and foremost priority was the destruction of Ethiopia.
2. Mr Zenawi has sold our access to the sea to his cousin just because he wanted a political power.
3. He sold our most fertile land to the Sudan. Because he wanted to pay back the support he received during the civil war.
4. He invaded Somalia and even refused to acknowledge to the parliament why he did it or how many troops killed or wounded.
5. The so called economic development in Ethiopia is like a mirage, created by a huger borrowing and printing of money that has completely dissipated the poor due to high inflation.
6. The beneficiaries of this mirage are his own ethnic groups. So, in South Africa during the apartheid era the white rulers built the country for their own benefit, is that something you want to praise? Then why we bothered to kicked out colonialist?
7. According to Human Right Watch, the regime in Ethiopia is the worst human a users in the world. Torture is common and extra judicial killings is rampant.
8. The country entire economy is controlled by one organisation “TPLF", is that just?
9. Corruption is so rampant that even the minister of internal revenue is in prison.
10. The entire senior security and military positions are held by one ethnic group, I bet that is a genius move as well?
Are we going to see mass protest across the world in front of the Ethiopian Embassy to demand the release of Eskinder Nega and the crucifixion of Moses Khisa?
” Away with this man! Release Eskinder Nega!”
” Crucify Moses Khisa! Crucify Moses Khisa!”
” Release Eskinder Nega! Release Eskinder Nega!”
The late PM’s views were or are imminently sensible. The western pundits were suggesting opening up an economy with, nineteenth century sophistication and size, to the free market competition of the twenty first! One needs not be an economist to predict the outcome of such a folly. Ask an average Nigerian or Kenyan how uncontrolled free market system is working for them! The beneficiaries are, always, those few at the top while the rest are exploited along with the natural resources of the country. Developing nations must insist on charting their own unique path to prosperity.
Whoah !!!…What a great article from
a world wide press great Journalist ,praising the Late Great Crime Minister Melas Zerafew ,from a great Democratic Country ,Uganda…Ruled by a Great
Democratic Leader ,Ye Worew Mussolini….LOL !!!!!
The one and only meles zenawi all Africans should learn from him.the time is here for Africa wake up less talk more work.
What does he knows about Ethiopia? He is paid by TPLF, paid journalist.
Your narrow perspective of the economic policy of the late PM is on display in your analysis.
True he had rejected the remedies recommended by western liberals.
But the question is who benefited from his economic policies. Your analysis missed the important aspect of his economic policies.
The people of Ethiopia know far better than you about the objective behind his refusal to liberalize these sectors. The political aspect of his economic policies are equally important. You failed to grasp the magnitude of the political aspect of his policies which we Ethiopians understand all too well.
The beneficiaries of his economic policies are those in power and their cronies.
You haven’t mentioned the benefit of privatization to the consumers. Poor telecom infrastructure and higher call rates are the result of his misguided politically-motivated policies.
Besides the telecom industry serves the state to control the society. It would be difficult to monitor by the state of telephone communications and internet if the industry was privatized.
The same goes for financial services industry.Do you know who have access to credits and foreign currency? No you don’t. Again the same people who are connected to the ruling northern elites and their cronies have unlimited access at the expense of the majority of entrepreneurs who have to wait for months to obtain credits and foreign currency for their legitimate businesses.
You cited isolated cases where foreign investors abuse local workers and the system that allow them to operate in Uganda. Yet Uganda is a better place to live than Ethiopia and it’s cheaper to call Uganda from abroad than Ethiopia. Higher number of graduates doesn’t necessarily mean more skilled workforce. Quality counts far more than quantity.
Your analysis miserably lacks depth and utterly one-sided.
Very nice article. I read some about the former Ethiopian prime minister and the truth is that even professors from Columbia University witnessed the leader’s economic philosophy could have saved the economic crisis shown recently.(http://www.ethiotube.net/video/25338/Professor-Akbar-Noman-of-Columbia-University-praising-the-late-Meles-Zenawi-at-TPLF-meeting–March-17-2013)
Have a look at some literatures http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/12/04/afraf.ads081.full
in deed my friend in deed. what a beautiful and accurate character analysis. once again in deed
The foundation our former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid was and is still the multi-faceted structure on which Ethiopia’s economic growth is accelerating at an amazing pace. With his intelligence and brilliance he unequivocally outsmarted and outmatched many of the “elites"(Alemayehu G/Mariam, Birhanu Nega, Mesay kebede and the likes) in the toxic diaspora community who to this very day are leaving no stones unturned to falsely defame and asperse all the brilliant achievements he had acomplished during his leadership. Meles’s brilliance and intelligence was reflected through his engagements both in Africa and the world as one of the brightest leaders in the world.
His farsighted and brilliant thoughts are bearing fruition making our country one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Ethiopia is prospering and shall continue to prosper!
Dear daily labourer Dc. Ethiopian diaspora, please wake up from your ignorance and arrogance, hate will never be a solution of anything, be civilized, be human.
I had a discussion with few Ugandans some weeks back and they had the same attitude,I think this is typical of Meles.
Meles had three personalities, the first what he said in Tigrigna, the 2nd in Amharic and the third in English.
Those African brothers and sisters know what he said in English and they know what he talked in AU and other international meetings.
They are not expected to know the internal situation.
We should understand that Ethiopia is a closed country, when 100 people died in Ethiopia it is a one time news for BBC, but when five people died in any of the other countries it is a big news and BBC and CNN will send reporters, no information is shared outside, Ethiopians know a lot about our neighbors, but they know very little about Ethiopian internal situation.
I think this is an assignment for all Ethiopians to do mass communication.
Africa needs Africans like MOSES KHISA. This is the only way Africa can function towards the better future.
This one of the few best approaches by Africans concerning Africa without infected, hijacked or brainwashed by the African self appointed masters and colonizers that are still telling us what to do and presenting us and our story in the world using their own media based on their own plan and agenda which is known and all is bad and negative including damaging images and undermining Africans/Blacks.
Kenyans especially those so called educated including journalists from the English empire school of journalism are the worse Brainwashed citizens in Africa. Some people think Uganda is also suffering the same way with less degree than Kenya. That is why Tanzania (a good nation) still reluctant having any economic and political ties with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi because of Kenya is there knowing Kenya is the most corrupt and brainwashed with none Africans ideas and behaviors which is a very danger to the whole region. We know who is running Kenya and how?
So, MOSES KHISA is and has to be the best examples how the Africans should behave including the writers, scholars, politicians and musicians. Foreigners mainly the English media, politicians, spy agencies and the likes must stop interfering in the African matters. They are the source of the African suffering for centuries. So, Africans must stop first those causing the problems the first place in order to make Africa the better place by Africans in the African way and situation for the African benefits.
It is good to witness the Africans are now starting to value and appreciate follow Africans like the Genius Meles Zenawi huge contribution to Ethiopia, Africa and the world. Africans must learn and doing often appreciating and motivating the Africans when they do good things and criticizing and stopping them when they behave badly.
Meles Zenawi is the Genius African person Africans and the world poor and good people can learn a lot from him and he will be always remember in the African/world good and best history books.
Brave, wise, hardworking and African lover Africans must take care all the matters concerning Africa including the Journalism and writing activities. Those the Kenyan Type brainwashed and corrupt individuals need to get down and change their sick brain in the African way for the Africans benefit rather than being instrumental to none Africans that are the responsible for the African past and present bad situations.
Having the English media and journalists in Africa is not doing the right thing but having the enemies and obstacles at home allowing them affecting easily, quickly and badly. Africa must be free first and foremost from any western Media particularly the English medias and criminal journalists that are responsible spreading bad images, lies, misinformation and the likes about Africa. They don’t belong to Africa and they need to stop doing anything bad in the name of the continent.
They have to understand how blacks are behaving and getting treatment in Europe including in England. So, their place has to be the same in Africa, not acting as if they are leaders and the owner of the continent having the best life than the locals.
We know what they did write and still do the English medias and journalists including BBC about Meles Zenawi. They hated him knowing he is too brave, smart, clean from corruption they cannot buy or cheat him to work for them at the cost of his people, well educated, thinker and a complet person beyond their imagination they have about africans. .
The only thing they were doing was as usual which is spreading lies about him and trying to discredit his policy always concentrating on bad things such as associating Ethiopia with poverty, bad governors and the likes. There is no a single covering on BBC or other evil English medias covering good images about Ethiopia. Even when they want to cover it, they start with the right and facts and then they are finishing it destroying with something bad to make the whole story aim as usual to damage the Ethiopian image which is the nature of their evil Journalism work.
They are like hungry lions and vultures on dead body until they get someone’s country Economy and policy in their hand under the name of privatization where IMF and WB which are their weapons to take the third world country mainly Africans under their ownership which is the economic colonization. Meles was the one resisted and defeated them and the same times managed to build his country by having own policy based on the country situation and circumstances. This is and has to be the best and new lesson to all nations. The IMF and WB style of privatization is not and will never be for the Africans benefit, but to destroy Africa and making the continent suffering under the economic colonization by the known colonizers that had no what so ever respect to the Africans but treated them for centuries like they were nothing.
There is no doubt, if they get chances, they will behave the save thing against Africa and Africans under the economic colonization countries like Kenya is suffering from. But Meles’s doctrine and legacy is saving Africa from suffering under the Economic colonization defeated by the IMF and WB policy they are using to fulfill the economic colonization agenda in the name of free market and privatization by foreigners which are them while they are opposing good nations like china and the likes that are building Africa with Africans.
morally and ethically, it does not matter whether or not someone has animosity against someone else (personal), it does not matter whether or not someone does not like someone else (for any reason), it does not matter whether or not someone dislikes someone else’s views or ideologies, it does not even matter whether or not someone HATES (for some bizarre and blind reason) someone’s background and nationality. REGARDLESS,
it makes sense to witness whatever good side the individual has. it makes sense to appreciate where appreciation is due. it makes sense to mention the GOOD DEEDs that “disliked or even hated” person has accomplished. it’s unbearably immoral and a complete stupidity to completely deny the outstanding accomplishments which have been witnessed (not just locally, but by the whole world!!)
It really is sad that ignorance is the worst enemy our world is facing.
Baseless and blind hate, rigidified attitude, empty bragging, disregarding and disrespecting the precious life, destroying and killing (even innocent, precious children!!) for some completely unjustifiable and barbaric “reasoning"…….
the late prime minister Meles Zenawi,
I may not be happy with some of what he did. I may not agree with some of the decisions he made during his life as a fighter and as prime minister. But, look!!! How damn am I, to NOT to recognize and appreciate the uniquely brilliant human being??? How illiterate and damn ass should someone be not to give credit to what Meles did for the country??? for African??? even for the world??? How severe ignorance is it, NOT to see and compare where the beloved country (Ethiopia) was before Meles? where was it?? where were we?? (come on! take a breath and tell the “truth"). Come on, have a courage, at least for one moment and swallow the fact.
Yeah, I know, it’s going to be extremely hard and almost impossible for individuals who are completely controlled by ignorance to face reality and witness things as they are.
However, thank God, as the world is contaminated by bunch of ignorant destructive and hate monger individuals, it is beautified and decorated by so many morally, ethically and legally mature, inside - out beautiful people. it’s surrounded by so many courageous, selfless, caring, hard working and loving people. What a relief!!!
And thank you Moses Khisa for being one of the courageous and caring people our world is proud of.
BARAK OBAMA: “Prime Minister Meles deserves recognition for his lifelong contribution to Ethiopia’s development, particularly his unyielding commitment to Ethiopia’s poor.”
BILL GATES: “Meles Zenawi was a visionary leader who brought real benefits to Ethiopia’s poor.” Gates even flew in for funeral.
DAVID CAMERON: “His personal contribution to Ethiopia’s development, in particular by lifting millions of Ethiopians out of poverty, has set an example for the region.”
TONY BLAIR: “He was a hugely significant figure in
Ethiopia’s history, in particular helping guide his country from extreme poverty to an era of economic growth and development.”
GORDON BROWN: “Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, made more progress in education, health and economic development under his leadership than at any time in its history and it is a tragedy for the Ethiopian people that they have lost a committed leader and a champion of children.”
BAN KI-MOON: “Meles would be remembered for his exceptional leadership and advocacy on African issues within and outside the continent and for overseeing his country’s economic development.”
JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, Nobel laureate in economics and former World Bank Chief Economist: “Meles Zenawi showed that, with the right policies in place, even a poor African country could experience sustained economic growth.”
Dear Moses Khisa
I agree with you 100%. he was a great leader with bright vision and the voice of voiceless.
Lord mercy his soul.
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