In Ethiopia since its new year PM Abiy Ahmed’s administration corruption crackdown has taken its toll to an all time high in the country’s history as the shakeup of people in the corruption underworld and on crimes against humanity ranged from high profile and senior former Politicians, Military Generals, Intelligence and Security Chiefs to Business men with affiliations (political ties) to the former oligarchies in the politico economic machine that used to run the closed government. And it has been intensified in recent weeks in such a way it has never been seen in the country before.
1) A Corruption Crackdown that Triggered Blooming Hopes of a New Economic Era
As the corruption shakeup continues hopes of the general public are being raised high as to the possibility of a new era of fairer business environment, freed up political space, and possibly the end of monopolistic and bureaucratic system that has chocked the country to its knees in the last decades. This is so as in the previous system the economic benefits have always gone to the small minority elite groups and their affiliates or supporters in a system much like the mafia system. The recent corruption probe has been deemed as one the scale of which is anything like what’s seen in other African countries. The magnitude and scope of the corruption depth shows that it’s something only possible if it were a government sponsored state looting. The way the corruption system was built up itself only confirms the complexity of the scheme designed specifically to ensure the unparalleled control and continued dominance of the oligarchies that used to run such an intricate design of systematic and institutionalized corruption dynasty.
What makes it the more dangerous is the fact that the intelligence and security apparatuses at state level were freely accessed by this network of corrupt groups and individuals to both advance their economic dominance through the corruption and organized scheme of ousting (putting out-off business) competitors using means of state institutions and structures. In the course of this gross human rights violations, unlike any other time in its recent history (well documented), were perpetrated as per the recent government report on the same. Examples of the economic monopoly cases include the preferential priorities given to such groups of businesses, state owned industries and companies owned by those who used to wield the power politics in the country in terms of loans from the state owned commercial bank and later the development bank that manages the loans, a staggering 40% of which was declared non performing loan by the state.
2) An Economy that has Fallen into a Stand Still Spiral
This is a time where a popular government administration, even though it is evolving out of the previous repressive party system, is rising up from the muds it has been rolling on, with high hopes within the public. Not much has changed for Ethiopians in the last year or so in economic terms following the coming into power of the new government. However there have been promising steps by the new government in asserting a freed up economic access by the majority public that has been under repression. Freedom of speech and engaging political space is being created though, following PM Abiy Ahmed’s seemingly ambitious actions to ensure the country moves forward in a new democratic political pathway.
This is expected to hugely stimulate the economy within the foreseeable future, in luring the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) the country has been starving for in the last couple of years, which has nearly brought down all import export activities of the country to a near halt. Though the new government’s recent move in making changes with regards to some of its financial and investment policies including the Public Private Partnership (PPP) is promising, much of the macroeconomy is being run by a handful of families that still hold the economic muscle that enables them to effectively cripple any fair competition to ensure their continued market monopoly. This has also resulted in the shadow economy of the country contributing as high as 40% of its GDP.
But the existential threat to the economy itself remains within the ethnically lined up political groups that have an age old ethnic identity questions and quests to assert their own influence of dominance at least within their own ethnic regional states of origin if not at federal level. The seemingly irreconcilable differences in political ideologies within the key political factions of Oromo and Amhara ethnic majorities also remains an imminent threat for a unified future of the country’s leadership. Not to mention the newly emerging dissection of the once strong Southern Regional State to a possible 5-10 independent regional states without much resources to run their own administrative institutions let alone to fund their respective development projects. This disintegration by itself poses another unforseen challenge on the federation in its budgetary support scheme to these would be regions.
3) The Social Structure that came into a Collision Course with Itself
With the social structure being challenged in the past one year to the brink of its collapse in every part of the country, PM Aby’s government has been surviving by a thread of presenting itself as a unifying symbol. This is more evident in a country that has been long deprived of a nationally unifying sentiment and fractioned along the lines of ethnic identity. The once revolutionary force of the ethnically driven opposition in different parts of the country against a repressive regime, that shook down the country’s ruling elites to their knees, didn’t manage to last being a force against repression and economic monopoly. Once the repressive force was toppled and a new majority government was in place the sociopolitical narrative started changing as it continued to set the country’s age old social fabric on a collision course with itself. This happened as the internal displacements and ethnic killings of various ethnic groups, from a supposedly rival ethnic group of competing economic interest from its dominant geographic territory, were perpetuated by politically driven ethnic mobs in every corner of the country.
In a country that has lasted for over 3,000 years with such a social harmony the disruption of this age old social cohesion was a shocking development for the new government which had yet to stand on its two feet to effectively run the country. It took the country an awakening of a century to reflect on its inevitable future of destruction and disintegration into smaller militia governments, if it were to continue in such a path to the brink of clashes of its social titans. It thus triggered the need for effective government actions both at lower communities level and higher up within the federal and regional state apparatuses.
This country might have survived the massive immediate threats of destruction socially politically and economically. But the political landscape keeps changing dynamically and a more ethnically tuned political space keeps being created. Whether it can continue as a country in a much volatile region as a regional force of balance remains to be a question to ponder on. On the economic front unless the sooner the government frees up the economic space and privatizes the market the country will continue to get sucked into a black hole of debt it is never going to get out of any time soon, leading it to a quagmire of economic and political slavery by the powers that be.