Friday, April 19, 2024

Extricating Ethiopia from the fragility trap

In a rare candid admission of the troubling Ethiopia presently finds itself in, the government has acknowledged that the country confronted with the prospect of a fragility trap. The admission came at the High-Level Development Forum where senior officials of the federal and regional governments and the Development Partners Group, a collective of bilateral and multilateral entities with an active development program in Ethiopia, discussed mid-week three strategic areas of engagement—building and consolidating peace, strengthening resilience, and addressing macro-economic challenges. Presenting the government’s position on the first theme, a minister described the emergence of extremist groups, polarization, recurring cycles of conflict, conflict response at the expense of development progress, elite-led zero-sum populism, untamed dash of narratives, erosion of social cohesion, ethnically and politically motivated violations, weak rule of law, prevalence of corruption, structural dependence on aid, unemployment of youth, and climate change-induced disasters as challenges that threatened to land Ethiopia in a fragility trap. Other government officials also spoke of the specter of fragility trap that they is attributable to Ethiopia’s weak resilience and the macro-economic hardship it is facing.     

While the government is at pains to dispel the notion that Ethiopia is in a fragility trap, we should make no bones about the fact that the nation has long figured on the list of fragile states.  Ethiopia, like many other low-income countries, has faced challenges that have hindered its development and stability, leading to what is commonly known as the “fragility trap.” The fragility trap refers to a situation in which a country’s institutions, economy, and social fabric are so weak that they struggle to break out of a cycle of poverty, conflict, and instability. Escaping this trap requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of fragility while building resilience and sustainable development. In the case of Ethiopia, several key strategies can be pursued to escape the fragility trap and pave the way for a more prosperous and stable future.

A crucial aspect of escaping the fragility trap in Ethiopia lies in strengthening governance and institutions. Weak governance, corruption, and lack of transparency have undermined the effectiveness of policies and the trust of the population in the government. This calls for an improvement in the provision of governance, enhancing the rule of law, ensuring accountability, and promoting inclusive decision-making processes. Investing in anti-corruption measures, reforming the existing national and regional legal regimes with a view to uphold the rule of law and afford citizens better protection for their human and democratic rights as well as fostering greater accountability and transparency in public institutions can go a long way towards building and consolidating peace and stability.  

Another critical area that the government must work hard at is the job of building a resilient economy that can withstand shocks and promote sustainable growth. The country’s heavy reliance on agriculture makes it vulnerable to climate change, price fluctuations, and other external factors. Diversifying the economy, investing in infrastructure, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, and improving access to finance are essential steps to build a more resilient economy. Additionally, investing in human capital through education and skills training is certain to boost productivity and competitiveness, driving economic growth and reducing poverty.

Addressing social inclusion and inequality is also paramount to escaping the fragility trap in Ethiopia. Social exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination have been the prime drivers of conflict and instability, undermining development efforts. Promoting social cohesion, empowering marginalized groups, ensuring equal access to services and opportunities, and fostering dialogue and reconciliation are vital to building a more inclusive society. Ramping up access to education, healthcare, and social protection can help reduce poverty and inequality, promoting social cohesion and stability. Furthermore, addressing environmental sustainability is critical for Ethiopia to escape the fragility trap. The country has for far too long been highly vulnerable to climate change, deforestation, soil degradation, and water scarcity, entailing severe consequences for its economy and population. Implementing sustainable land management practices, promoting renewable energy, protecting natural resources, and building climate resilience are essential to safeguarding the environment and ensuring the well-being of future generations. Ethiopia’s ambitious targets for reforestation and renewable energy expansion are positive steps in this direction but need to be scaled up.

Aside from the efforts that must be undertaken on the domestic front, strengthening regional cooperation and partnerships can also contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to escape the fragility trap. Regional conflicts, transnational threats, and global challenges require collective action and collaboration. Engaging with neighboring countries, international organizations, and development partners can help Ethiopia address common challenges, leverage resources and expertise, and promote peace and stability in the region. In this regard fostering dialogue, building trust, and promoting cooperation is of the essence in enhancing Ethiopia’s security, economic integration, and geopolitical influence.

Escaping the fragility trap in Ethiopia requires a holistic and sustained effort to address the thematic areas of governance, economy, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and regional cooperation. By strengthening institutions, promoting economic diversification, fostering social cohesion, protecting the environment, and building partnerships, Although the Herculean task of overcoming the challenges that have trapped Ethiopia in fragility and pave the way for a more prosperous and stable future is a collaborative effort that must involve all stakeholders, it mainly rests on the shoulders of the government. With political will, leadership, and a commitment to reform, Ethiopia has the potential to break the cycle of fragility and achieve sustainable development and peace for its people.

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