Thursday, May 02, 2013

Boomtown Ethiopia - Can Former Poster Child Nation Become A Model For African Growth?

(May 02, 2013, ADDIS ABABA))--It is a strange-looking capital. A gigantic open-air construction site, located at an altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level. Buildings, avenues, traffic circle: the whole city appears to be sprouting up from the ground, its landscape strewn with construction sites, wooden scaffoldings and trenches where women are working alongside men.

“Building Ethiopia” is the government’s motto, even if it is the Chinese leading the operations -- and nevermind if right now, it is making life even harder for locals. The country had long been a symbol of dire poverty and famine, particularly in 1984 and 1985, as "We Are The World" and other initiatives helped spread awareness about hunger.

But now, Ethiopia has one of the highest growth rates of the continent, between 8 and 10% of its annual gross domestic product. Although one Ethiopian in three still lives below the poverty line – with less than 60 cents a day – a bona fide middle class is emerging, mostly in cities. Still, this cannot be compared to a Western conception of middle class, with its widely varying incomes and social trajectories. Instead, here the focus revolves around a common spirit: the fierce determination to fight poverty.

Mekonnen Tilahun is a 32-year-old accountant. He has never seen the sea, or walked on the sands of a beach. Only through his sister, who went to Djibouti once, does he know “how beautiful it is!” But he lacks nothing in ambition, and changes employers every two years to move on to something better. In the past eight years, Tilahun's income has multiplied five-fold. He still lives at home with his mother in order to save money.  Read more from World »

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