Trudeau’s stand in Ethiopia
Canada and Ethiopia have had a long and rich relationship founded on the ideals and principles of charity, immigration, shared interest in the ideals of multiculturalism, peaceful co-existence and an international view of the world. Canada to Ethiopia has been a society worth of emulation. It remains an admired nation.
It is no wonder; Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was well received among Ethiopians wherever he went last week.
From walking the halls of the African Union, politicking for a seat as a member of the Security Council, joining women Ethiopian entrepreneurs inside Yod Abyssinia Restaurant who were humbled by his star power, or the people who shook his hand at a pizza joint as he posed for a memorable photo that will surely hung in a prominent place – this was no ordinary visit of a Canadian Prime Minister to Ethiopia.
“It is too soon to talk about legacy,” the Prime Minister said at a hastily arranged press conference at an Efoi Pizza restaurant in Bole, owned by an Ethiopian Canadian entrepreneur, when he was asked what his legacy in Africa has been. “I am focused on helping create jobs…and I am impressed with all the constructions that are taking place in Ethiopia,” he said as the shortcomings of the Ethiopian construction activities, with few standards and quality workmanship, were in public view from a top of a building where he chose to give his presser.
Looking annoyed that he was asked a question far from his talking points, with Canadian media more interested in the issues of home, joined by a Canadian Somali and a Hong Kong government ministers and the President of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujir used as a background, which the later helped save his campaign from humiliation last year over accusation of racism linked to a blackface clownish act he did as a 20-something drama teacher, the Prime Minister looked more like a rock star, than a politician.
“He looks more handsome, more attractive and he looks young,” a 60-something woman who accidentally bumped into him at Efoi Pizza told The Reporter. “I came to purchase a pizza, I had no idea why there were many people and I was restricted on my movement. However, when I found out, I was way star-struck to approach a man of his stature. I am also impressed he had few people guarding him. It shows the kinds of humbling nation Canada is.”
It is hard to imagine his predecessors – the wooden Stephen Harper, the aging Jean Chretien and Paul Martin – getting such a reception.
The lone Prime Minister to ever come to Ethiopia was Jean Chretien; at the end of his premiership looking to accumulate a lasting legacy as he was pushed by his Finance Minister, Paul Martin, to resign earlier than desired. The then premier was championing a parliamentary act to allow African nations to purchase affordable vital medications from international multinationals but it ultimately failed.
The son of a controversial Prime Minister decades ago, Pierre Trudeau, who is credited with the modern day Canadian multiculturalism and celebrated for allowing African South Asians to immigrate to Canada during the Idia Amin ill advised rushed decision to deport them from their own nation. Justin Trudeau is still on a learning curve after he was accidentally propelled to the premiership by circumstances and the failing of Liberal leaders with a much more hefty background – Stephen Dion, who is now stationed as Canada’s ambassador to Germany and the European Union and Michael Ignatieff, the rector of the Central European University, funded by George Soros.
While he denies the visit of Ethiopia is entirely a self serving visit to become a temporary member of the United Nation’s temporary Security Council, he is quick to explain it is also to an endorsement of the recent reforms of Ethiopia initiated by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prime Minister who is often compared to himself. He has placed much resources, attention to make his nation a member part of his legacy, beyond championing women and girl’s rights activism that is associated to his brand as a world leader.
Helped by a new greying facial hair – he looked much older than the flashy, talking point machine he was five years ago, when he took over the Premiership, ending an unprecedented decade of Conservative rule.
“As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Ethiopia is set to become a major economic hub that could open up new markets & create new jobs for people in both our countries.” Trudeau tweeted as he met with Ethiopian President Sahle-work Zewdie.
While Canada belatedly acknowledges Ethiopia’s progress towards an economy worthy of support, as a mechanism to change its status as a society that a once hopeless nation that was dependent on aid, pity and major producer of the world’s most destitute refugees, this has not been the way Canada has been engaged within it in the past.
The nation had been providing untold resources in order to feed millions of people. In fact, save Afghanistan, Ethiopia is the biggest recipient of Canada’s developmental assistance, focused on areas of sexual and reproductive health rights, working against female genital mutilation to a total investment of USD 67.5 million stretched to six years.
In addition, with partnership with UNFPA, UNICEF and Plan International Canada, it is spending more than USD 200 million annually to improve women and children's health.
Trudeau also announced a new engagement via the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), that is to increase trade and investment, from the minimal two way trade that is now only worth USD 170 million annually.
As well, there is to be a new Trade Commissioners of Trade that will push infrastructure projects on P3 projects.
At the end, the second coming of a Canadian Prime Minister’s visit certainly made an impression. While the Canadian Prime Minister talked much about the Ethiopian diaspora at home, their political influence is minimal to have an impact and push the Prime Minister to visit, much like his ill-advised visit to India two years ago.
There, he was accused of trying to please the South Asians at home, dressed in various costumes and for focusing on style rather than substance. He was ridiculed at home.
“Thanks @CanadianPM PM Trudeau for the important visit highlighting a strong partnership with #Ethiopia and the full continent that will be even stronger, based on shared priorities”, his ambassador in Ethiopia, Antoine Chevrier, reflected as he said his good bye.
Now, if that happens is a Justin Trudeau legacy worth celebrating, perhaps truly fulfil the words of the Irish rock star – “The World Needs More Canada” – that was uttered at the 2003 Liberal convention that saw Paul Martin, a champion of debt reductions of developing nations become Canada’s 21st Prime Minister.