policies the Obama administration has already implemented,
as well as materials made public beforehand, brings to mind
at least half a dozen aims: Employ state-of-the art
technologies to advance human welfare; develop energy
sources to replace fossil fuels, and in other ways conserve
natural environments; link upgraded education and health
services with a strengthened economy; avoid sharp polarities
of pronouncement and of conduct; curtail terrorist tactics,
but in smart ways; and restore moral direction for a market
economy and public service from the citizenry.
State's vast aid program to Ethiopia encompassed commitments
of a billion dollars in 2008. Management of this program
constitutes a daunting challenge that has been met by a
devoted crew of American aid professionals. They have
accomplished an enormous amount in many areas, work that
rarely gets the kind of recognition in Ethiopia or in the
United States (U.S.) it deserves. Even so, much of their
mission remains defined in terms of conventional visions and
It is a
truism in development thinking that latecomers have special
advantages over early birds, in that they have an
opportunity to bypass errors and traumas of the countries
that modernized first and to exploit ideas and inventions
not available when the latter transformed. One need not be
Trotsky to appreciate the insights contained in his "Law of
Uneven and Combined Development." Hitherto, this dynamic has
meant applying what advanced technologies are already in
place for having worked well in the United States and other
that aid work were animated by a vision of reaching out for
technologies that are just beyond prevailing practices.
Suppose that a hard look at the unintended consequences and
negative byproducts of current approaches were combined with
imaginative forays into new possibilities. Suppose, for
example, that Ethiopia acquired an information technology
park that started right off with 21st Century hardware and
software, rather than hand-me-downs from outmoded systems.
Suppose that medical records in Ethiopia were rationalized
in ways that American hospitals have yet to achieve. Suppose
that educational reforms were based on teaching methods
created from the emerging neuroscience of learning.
President Obama mentioned energy independence as the highest
priority of his administration. In Ethiopia, leapfrogging
over costly, wasteful, and environmentally harmful practices
of the industrial age can be realized right now through
green technologies. The U.S. is at the edge of efforts to
rethink its ways of procuring energy, efforts necessitated
by a combination of security, environmental, and economic
exigencies. Available new technologies, with other
innovations in tow, would create stunning socioeconomic
results in Ethiopia.
taking advantage of recent discoveries and inventions, USAID
could help Ethiopia lead the movement towards the emerging
clean tech, carbon-free age. Such initiatives might include
low-cost organic roads, 30pc-40pc cheaper than asphalt with
up to 85pc less maintenance; more efficient municipal waste
management, through digesters, gasifiers, and plasma systems
- top sources for biofuel and bioenergy; low-cost, quickly
implemented micro-wind and solar parabolic systems - ideal
for distributed energy production; improved hydroelectric
turbine technology for dams, rivers, and geothermal systems;
mini-gasification for animal and agricultural waste; and
Power Playgrounds, which use playtime energy to create power
and to pump purified water for villages.
move to green technologies, already pursued actively by the
Ethiopian government, preserves the environment as well as
boosts the economy. It helps save trees from the
survival-driven practice of converting them to charcoal and
can energize a reforestation process. It could fortify a
growing environmental awareness in Ethiopia, which hopes to
avoid mistakes like environmentally destructive dams like
those in Egypt and China -but has already suffered the
destruction of beautiful Lake Abiyata.
more, low-cost organic roads could attract new ecotourism
and generate additional revenues.
Obama Administration has already taken action in two areas
prominent in the campaign statements: health and education.
clothes these initiatives not only in rhetoric of social
justice but also in a discourse about equipping new
generations of Americans to be competitive in the global
Ethiopian setting, other issues get triggered when
improvements in health and education are supported by USAID
programs. Improving the quantity and quality of education
for girls may be a core item in this complex. It is not just
that educating females will add a large number of qualified
persons to the work force. By keeping girls in school, it
spares them the degradation and health impairment of early
marriage. It keeps them from becoming part of the growing
army of prostitutes who contribute heavily to the HIV/AIDS
epidemic. It leads to smaller families, a crucial response
to Ethiopia's dilemma of increasing population at the
expense of realistic capacities to feed them.
Obama emphasis also leads to the idea of restoring the
enormously effective program Peace Corps Volunteers at the
secondary and university levels. During the Kennedy years,
American teachers imparted excellent instruction in
Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Geography, and English.
last desideratum I cite words of one accomplished
beneficiary: "Ethiopians need to use English language from
an early age as I did growing up in a poor rural school in
Arsi. This will make Ethiopia globally competitive. This
will also produce good students for the rapidly growing
universities and possibly reverse the damage of those who
have imposed local mother tongues only and denied them the
opportunity to learn in Amharic and thus participate
effectively in the national economy and politics. This view
is based on my conversations with my ancestors who speak
both Amharic and Oromiffa with equal fluency and are
teaching their children Amharic and Oromiffa, and
encouraging them to learn English at an early age as I did
Building on shifts in security thinking of the last year or
so, the Obama Administration rejects attempts to impose the
American political-economic system on other countries in a
domineering way. In keeping with the President's own
predilection for dialogue in place of combat, a stance
followed by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the U.S.
Government has sought more to listen to what leaders and
citizens of other countries are saying and what their own
deepest needs and aspirations are, not with the idea of
accepting all they say but in order to take their statements
seriously into account.
ready to extend a hand, his inaugural affirmed, if the
oligarchs of the world unclench their fists.
position requires an approach to dealing with problematic
features of the EPRDF regime that is more nuanced than
moralizing statements from members of Congress. U.S.
officials need to recognize the deep roots of Ethiopia's
aversion to being subordinated to any outside power. A
millennial history as "Ethiopia, proud and free" reaches to
the core of Ethiopian identity, and why it was for so long
looked up to as a symbol of freedom during the long
struggles for African independence.
the most appreciated attributes of Emperor Haile Selassie
were his determination and skill in balancing the aid from
other countries so that no single nation could secure a
quasi-colonial monopoly of influence. Even the worst ruler
in Ethiopian history, Mengistu Haile Mariam (Col.), showed
this pride when, reacting to a Newsweek report of his effort
to imitate the Red Terror of Soviet Communism.
snorted: "We don't need to copy what the Russians did. We
can invent a Terror of our own!"
could a self-respecting regime in Ethiopia not take umbrage
at critiques from officials of the powerful U.S. Government
- especially when its halting but determined efforts to
democratize stand in contrast to other, more repressive
African governments who remain unrebuked?
same time, an Obama-style rhetoric represents American
concerns for human rights and freedom of press as
expressions not of a partisan outlook but of what have
become globally accepted standards. That could remind us all
of how important has been Ethiopia's wish to be treated in
accord with those standards. After all, it was the failure
of the League of Nations to live up to those standards that
made Ethiopia an icon for the principle of collective
security. Indeed, it was the Ethiopian Government's wish to
abide by those standards that induced it to decree an end to
the Slave Trade as in 1923, and to follow that with an
imperial proclamation outlawing slavery in 1942.
extent that Ethiopia's government can reject allegations
that those standards have been violated, United States
should listen to those claims and evaluate the evidence
impartially. This, in turn, requires verification through
the work of professional agencies monitoring such issues.
expressed commitment of Ethiopian authorities to their
constitution and to the rule of law should be respected and
fortified. That is why I have advocated a more energized
approach to helping Ethiopians in their determination to
build capacities for a more effective judiciary and other
institutions of democratic governance.
might well include more public information about the
significant contributions already made by USAID in the areas
of legislation and institution building, justice and human
rights, and conflict mitigation. And the fact that the Obama
Administration has taken steps to open up more sources of
information might inspire Ethiopians to move toward greater
transparency and clarity, lack of which, I have argued in
the past, contributed to a half century of missed
opportunities in Ethiopia.
bitter lessons from Iraq should have been more widely
anticipated before the U.S. launched its hapless adventure
there, as then State Senator Obama and many others warned.
Those lessons were apparently not held in mind when the U.S.
supported Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia. From Obama's
early warnings and subsequent statements, three points are