There seems to be no end in sight to the economic havoc the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking on the global economy. From the service to the manufacturing and agriculture sectors no area of the economy has been immune to the devastating impacts of the contagion, forcing people lacking economic security to rely on government handout for survival. If the severe downturn does not improve soon the ripple effect is feared to spread to the banking and insurance industries. The humanitarian toll of the virus as well is climbing inexorably, leaving millions hospitalized and hundreds of thousands dead. Coming to Ethiopia the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and citizens who succumb to it is rising alarmingly even as the scourge’s economy fallout continues to ravage livelihoods. This makes it even more important to ramp up the efforts underway to curb the spread of the pandemic and mitigate its deleterious effects.
One of the critical areas of intervention is the enhancement of economic capacity through the full utilization of the resources at the country’s disposal. Given around 80-85 percent of Ethiopians are engaged in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and rain-fed farming and livestock production, it’s imperative to attach greater importance to the sector. Despite being endowed with a vast arable land, substantial water resources, favorable climatic conditions and most of all a sizeable youthful population, Ethiopia still buys and, when that is not enough, begs for wheat to feed its people. It spends considerable sums of foreign exchange on importing basic commodities that ought to be produced in abundance locally. Although it has the largest livestock population in Africa, only a tiny fraction of people afford products like beef, chicken, egg, butter and fish. All this begs such questions as, “Why are regional states not effectively putting to use their farmable land? What is to blame for the failure to create sustainable employment opportunities for the youth? And what is being done to avail adequate financing for the productive sections of society?” The future will not bode well if a holistic solution is not sought for these challenges.
In Ethiopia the time and energy devoted to useless talk instead of hard work is mind numbing. If Ethiopians as a nation were to be less preoccupied with wrangling over bankrupt political narratives and focus more on fulfilling their aspirations through hard work, wonders can be done thanks to the country’s huge yet untapped potential and large workforce. The prevalence of a culture which rewards rather than penalizes hardworking folks has allowed self-serving charlatans that have nothing to do better than badmouth those who excel them to dominate all spheres of life. Naturally, this has led to poverty, backwardness and repression. This is why it’s of the essence to embark on a cultural revolution that instils a strong work ethics in each and every citizen.
Another vital task awaiting Ethiopians is the institution of a system ensuring that any activity they perform is properly planned, monitored and executed. A system underpinned by strong institutions having a leadership and staff possessing the requisite education, experience and professionalism can go a long way towards producing goods in quantities that not only meet local demand but also can be exported to Africa and beyond, generating badly needed foreign exchange earnings. As though the importation of food items like wheat, edible oil and sugar is not galling enough, it’s a national disgrace that Ethiopia, which contributes Ethiopia contributes approximately 85 percent of the volume of the Nile water, buys horticultural products from Sudan and Egypt that are produced using the river. Unless Ethiopians do everything in their power to bring this sad state of affairs to a swift end the future will not bode well for them.
A nation with poor work ethics is doomed from the start. The number of Ethiopians dependent on humanitarian aid all over the country has risen sharply recently with tens of millions affected/displaced by drought, intercommunal conflicts, COVID-19 and flooding, among others, requiring emergency food and non-food assistance. The proportion of the population unable to have even one decent meal a day far exceeds those seeking support; the vast majority of Ethiopians live below the poverty line; population size, unemployment, urban crime rate and rural-urban migration are burgeoning uncontrollably; manufacturing industries are producing below capacity due to the foreign exchange crunch; and the agriculture sector has a long way to go before it is able to guarantee national food security. These and other intractable challenges adversity staring Ethiopia in the face may only be overcome with hard work, not useless talk.
It’s not an exaggeration to say Ethiopia can be Africa’s poster child for success if its people were empowered to unleash their potential. Needless to say this cannot be achieved without encouraging entrepreneurship and rooting out the short-termism ingrained in the minds of many. The best way to go about this is to inculcate a strong work ethics in citizens beginning from an early age and rewarding hard work. The development of a mindset valuing hard work is bound to engender a spirit of unity and collaboration. As such a mindset takes root there will be no place for sloth, conniving, conflict-mongering, corruption and toxic narratives that undermine national unity. The most important job of Ethiopian politicians and for that matter everybody else is to extricate Ethiopia from the raft of problems confronting it with everything they got. As the saying goes, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” Useless talk won’t save the Ethiopian economy; only hard work does!