Ethiopia leases land the size of Britain to foreign nations

Ethiopia leases land the size of Britain to foreign nations

Developed countries are flocking towards sub-Sahara Africa to lease and buy farmlands from some of the world's poorest nations. In what is now being dubbed as the new scramble for Africa, some 6.2 million acres of farmland have been bought or leased within the last 5 years alone, with Ethiopia among the highest of farmlands already leased.

The government of Ethiopia states at least 36 nations, including Germany, China, Saudi Arabia, United States, Djibouti, and India have leased farmland since 2009. Over the next 5 years, it plans to increase this figure by threefold with the hopes of generating hard currency.

Prices for plots of land in Ethiopia ranges from as few as $6.89 USD per hectare in the Gambella and north-western regions, to $11.62 per hectare around the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

A land the size of Britain has already been leased to foreign countries, which has alaramed many Ethiopian citizens and foreign human rights advocates alike, whom believe the Ethiopian regime is exploiting its most vulnerable citizens for short-sighted profits.

In the middle of all these land leases are the indigenous Ethiopian ethnic groups, who are being forcibly removed from their historical territories to make way for these foreign companies.

These resettlement programs have angered Ethiopia's agropastoralist communities, who feel their lands are being taken away from them for profit. Many of these communities in the Gambella and Afar regions have even started to take up arms against government forces.

While 14 million Ethiopians severely lack adiqute food and receive international humanitarian food relief, these foreign companies will make Ethiopia an exporter of food.

The government argues these companies will create jobs and provide skills to the local farmers, as well as generating much needed foreign-exchange, while Ethiopian citizens and foreign think tanks claim the regime is trying to gain political favors and hard currency at the expense of the people.

Land grab of sub-Sahara Africa by western and eastern nations

Photos of the Ethiopian Air Force

Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF)

Ethiopia's air force was founded by Haile Selassie and would be greatly expanded under his imperial administration. In 1930, the Ethiopian air force consisted of just three jet fighters: two German-made monoplanes and one British-made Gypsy Moth. All three planes were flown and maintained by two French pilots who were funded by the French Government. In 1958, at the request of Haile Selassie, the Eisenhower administration provided three Lockheed T-33 Shooting Stars, one Douglas C-47 Skytrain, and for the training of Ethiopian pilots in the United States. Moreover, President Eisenhower agreed to provide Ethiopia with twelve F-86 Sabre jets that were delivered in 1960.

During the Mengistu Haile Mariam reign, Ethiopian air force received a substantial amount of sophisticated Soviet built weaponry. In fact, during this period, Ethiopia had the largest and strongest black African military that was armed to the teeth with advanced military apparatuses. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), by 1979, Ethiopia acquired "70 MiG fighter bombers, of which 12 are of the advanced MiG-23 type and the rest mainly MiG 21s. The Ethiopians also have 30 heavy-lift M1-6 combat helicopters."[1]  As a result of years of poor maintenance, compounded with the wars with neighboring states of Eritrea and Somalia, much of these jet fighters possessed during Mengistu's era were destroyed and less than a fraction remain operational today.

Under Meles Zenawi's administration, Ethiopian air force acquired a number of MiG-29s, SU-25s, and SU-27s. Due to the secretive nature of Zenawi's regime, very little information is ever given on the number of these fighters, nor are many images available online. Educated guesses by military experts put the number of eight SU-27s and seven MiG-29s in service for ETAF.

Ethiopian MiG-23

Ethiopian SU-27 © Griffon

Ethiopian Pilot next to an SU-27

Satellite image of Ethiopia's air force base

Satellite image of Ethiopia's air force base

Ethiopian C-119

Ethiopian Mi-12

Ethiopian Mi-17 - Photo by Gordon Brown

Ethiopian Mi-17 - Photo by Voss John in 1996

Ethiopian Mi-24 - 1991

Ethiopian Mi-35 attack helicopter

Ethiopian MiG-23s near Addis Ababa

Ethiopian pilot with MiG-23

Ethiopian Pilots posing near a MiG-23 - 1988

Three Ethiopian AF F-5

Addis Ababa: The Dying Flower

Addis Ababa: The Dying Flower

When the Ethiopian capital was founded in 1887 by Menelik II, it was given a name of "Addis Ababa", which translates to the "new flower" in Amharic. Just like a flower, the new city would need maintenance, patience and care to blossom into something spectacular. Unfortunately, the beautiful city and new begening Menelik envisioned for Addis Ababa hasn't happened. Decades of neglect and mismanagement has made the city look unappealing and unlivable for many of its citizens.

Just how bad have things gotten in Addis?

According to the United Nations, Addis has one of the highest densities of slum dwellers in the world[1]. Recently, Addis was ranked as the 6th dirtiest city globally by Forbes Magazine[2]. The capital also suffers from a wide-range of social issues such as excessive panhandling; poor sanitation conditions; and a prostitution epidemic. In fact, one in every twelve women residing in Addis today are prostitutes[3]; which is likely why many tourists have dubbed Addis the "Bangkok of Africa". According to government statics, 24% of inhabitants of the city lacked access to adequate toilet/shower facilities and a staggering 30% of Addis residents now live below the absoulte poverty line[4].

Since taken power in 1991, Meles Zenawi's attempt of leaving his footprint on the city has exasperated the situation by frantically constructing buildings that consist of ugly steel-and-glass towers that has made the city look mundane and lacking architectural enthusiasm. Just about all the buildings being built in capital these days are not up to par with international safety standards. In order to save costs, many state owned construction firms are developing buildings that lack fire escape routes and adequate plumping. Additionally, the construction boom being witnessed in the city does not harmonize with Addis Ababa's Master Plan, which was created between 1984 to 1986 by a joint Italian and Ethiopian administrations.

Solutions to fix the dying flower 

The government should focus on building large parks and recreation centers within the capital. It should also invest in landscaping and sidewalks for pedestrians. Additionally, the government should concentrate more on quality, rather than quantity and start developing buildings in accordance with the city's master plan, so the true character of Addis can be defined. As for the social issues, the government needs to clamp down on panhandling and prostitution and give those disadvantaged citizens opportunities to earn a living. The challenges facing the capital are enormous and only long-term solutions can revive the city from its dismal state. Government officials and urban planners must reverse course before the city completely looks and feel like a giant 3rd world glass-and-concrete slum.

Addis Ababa Ranks the 6th dirtiest city in the world

Ethiopian Economy: Separating Fact from Fiction

Ethiopian Economy: Separating Facts from Fiction

Meles Zenawi's Economic Distortion
For a number of years now, Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, has been claiming Ethiopia's economy has been growing by a double-digit margin of 10% or greater. Zenawi believes if he is transforming Ethiopia's economy at this impressive rate, then this will somehow offset his deplorable human rights abuses, his iron-grip dictatorship, and widespread repression. To his credit, it has given him a pass from most western reporters from writing critical articles and the general consensus among foreign western diplomats seemingly believe Ethiopia's economy has been growing at an exceptional rate even with the fact that there isn't any credible evidence to substantiate this belief.

Yet despite this claim of 10% economic growth or greater for much of the decade, there isn't a single credible multilateral economic institution that supports Zenawi's far-fetched claims. Nearly all independent economic institutions have dismissed Zenawi's claims. For example, William Wallis of the Financial Times recently pointed out Ethiopia's double-digit growth claims are based on "dubious statistics" and goes on to highlight that development experts seem to believe there's a trade-off between growth and civil liberties, hence why they continue to shy-away from being critical of Zenawi's widespread human rights abuses.

In Ethiopia, the same is almost true but with a disturbing caveat. It is an open secret that the double-digit growth of recent years is supported by dubious statistics. Yet the same figures are bandied around by development experts arguing that a trade-off between growth and civil liberties is inevitable.
Financial Times, August 9 2010, by William Wallis

On November 3, 2007, the Economist Magazine dismissed Zenawi's double-digit GDP growth claims and suggested it was likely around 5-6%.

The government claims that the economy has been growing at an impressive 10% a year since 2003-04, but the real figure is probably more like 5-6%, which is little more than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. And even that modestly improved rate, with a small building boom in Addis Ababa, for instance, has led to the overheating of the economy, with inflation moving up to 19% earlier this year before the government took remedial action. The reasons for this economic crawl are not hard to find. Beyond the government-directed state, funded substantially by foreign aid, there is--almost uniquely in Africa--virtually no private-sector business at all.
Nov. 1, 2007, By Arba Minch, Economist

Moreover, during Ethiopia's coffee disagreements with Starbucks, the Economist described Zenawi's administration as being: "one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world...". If that wasn't bad enough, In 2010, Oxford University, in collaboration with the United Nation, ranked Ethiopia as the 2nd poorest country on Earth, which contradicts the primer's claims of transforming the country's economy and bringing many Ethiopians out of poverty.

Even though reputable economists regularly dismiss Zenawi's claims of a runaway double-digit economy, Zenawi has kept perpetuating this dubious claim by citing IMF officials in charge with economic forecasts for sub-Sahara Africa. Although the IMF never stated Ethiopia's economy had grown by double-digits, they nevertheless have been the most generous with their "estimation" forecast figures than the rest. This is largely due to the fact that the person in charge of IMF's sub-Sahara economic forecasts is an Ethiopian named Abebe Aemro Selassie. Prior to getting his job as the assistant director of the IMF sub-Sahara Africa department, Mr. Selassie was working for the Ethiopian Government. This self-serving economic forecasts, in which one former Ethiopian government employee at the IMF takes Zenawi's claims and slightly modifies it and gives it crediablity has been going on ever since Mr. Selassie obtained his job at the IMF in 2004. Despite this major conflict of interest for Mr. Selassie, he has never been questioned by any reporter, nor has anyone questioned why a former Ethiopian Government employee would head the sub-Sahara African economic forecasts department and not be able to see this as being a major conflict of interest for Ethiopia.

Abebe Aemro Selassie - Ethiopia

Abebe Aemro Selassie is an Assistant Director in the IMF’s African Department. He currently heads the teams working on South Africa and the Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa. Before joining the IMF, he worked for the Government of Ethiopia. IMF-Direct

As the Economist and other reputable economic institutions have suggested, Ethiopia's GDP has been growing at around 5-6% since 2006 and not the exaggerated and dubious 10-15% Zenawi has claimed. But even taken this 5-6% GDP growth at face value isn't beneficial, as it neglects that Ethiopia has the highest inflation in Africa; which currently stands at 40%. It also doesn't factor into account over 2.3 million Ethiopians are born annually, which strips away any marginal economic growth the country could of had. Zenawi's failure to tackle the population explosion is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. At the current rate of population growth, Ethiopia's economy would have to run just to stand still.

Construction of Blue Tower Building in Addis Ababa Underway

Construction of Blue Tower Building in Addis Ababa Underway 

The Maritime and Transit Services Enterprise (MTSE) of Ethiopia has funded the construction of a multi-purpose building in the heart of Addis Ababa. Costing 91 million Birr (around $5 million USD) to build, the 18-story building is being constructed on 5,000sqm plot of land by the Ziasae architecture firm. Once completed, it will become the new headquarters for MTSE. In addition, the building will also accommodate a high class restaurant, an apartment complex and as an assembly hall.

Commentary About the builing:

The tower will largely consist of steel and glass, which seems to be the de-facto choice among Ethiopian architects. Unlike most of Addis Ababa towers, this one has been well designed and looks aesthetically appealing, even though it doesn't harmonize well with its surrounding buildings. It's no surprise this blue tower was the winner of of Addis Ababa's best design competition. The Ziasae architecture firm are the best in Ethiopia and this building demonstrates their skill and growth as a company.

Design of the blue Addis Ababa building (Photo: Ziasae)

Design of the building with other buildings around it (Photo: Ziasae)

Construction is in full swing - Photo Yoniii