|While things are getting better in much of Africa, Ethiopia risks getting left behind|
|Written by The Econmist|
|Monday, 05 November 2007|
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. The IMF estimates that in 2005-06 the share of private investment in the country was just 11%, nearly unchanged since Mr Zenawi took over in the early 1990s. That is partly a reflection of the fact that, despite some privatisation since the centralised Marxist days of the Derg, large areas of the economy remain government monopolies, closed off to private business.
Take telecoms. While the rest of Africa has been virtually transformed in just a few years by a revolution in mobile telephony, Ethiopia stumbles along with its inept and useless government-run services. Everywhere else, a plethora of South African, home-grown and European providers has leapt into the market to provide Africans with an extraordinary array of cheaper and more efficient services, now used even by the poorest of farmers, for instance, to check spot prices for agricultural goods in markets miles away. And the mobile-phone revolution has created thousands of new livelihoods; at times it seems as if every boy on a street corner is hawking a top-up card. Not in Ethiopia.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group, says that “while this government is an improvement over its predecessor [the Derg], its human-rights record is nonetheless extremely grim.” The government has also become highly sensitive to criticism. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that only Zimbabwe has produced more exiled journalists since 2001, though Eritrea is much fiercer at curbing the freedom of the press.
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