Ethiopia’s Three Years, Kazakhstan’s Three Decades: Leaders Do the Tricks

The people of Kazakhstan ushered themselves in a new era of prosperity back in 1991. But the same year is remembered as one of the lost opportunities in the politics of Ethiopia. Worse even, most people also regard it as the beginning of a long-time suffering in the hands of some oligarchs. If anyone gets it hard to fathom what we have lost in the last years, Kazakhstan can offer us a visible example as to where we should have been today.

No doubt, it is up to us whether or not to put the days to good use. As Kazakhstan championed all-round development in the last thirty years, Ethiopia has seen the light at the end of the tunnel in the last three years.  

Home to 19 million people in a vast land equal to the territory of Germany, Norway, Finland, France, Spain, and Sweden altogether, Kazakhstan’s color-blind foreign policy has attracted FDI both from the Western and Eastern hemispheres. Now the country has parted with poverty and is heading to prosperity putting the fight against corruption at the top of the government’s agenda.

Today, thanks to the wise rule of the First President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the first 30 years, a politically stable Kazakhstan is a regional leader in the field of economic reforms, openness to international trade and investment inflows. Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia. The country’s GDP exceeds the GDP of all the countries of the Central Asian region combined. And by 2050, Kazakhstan has set a strategic goal to become one of the 30 most developed countries in the world.

It is important to note that the transit of power in Kazakhstan in 2019 was peaceful and democratic. The new President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, has been carrying out large-scale reforms in the country for the third year in a row. In the core of his state reforms is the implementation of the concept of a «Listening state».

The formal relations of Ethiopia and Kazakhstan marked 10 years. The two sides have lots of areas to explore to expand their diplomatic relations. The 10th anniversary of the relations can be put to effect to further deepen the mutual interests of the two countries. The good opportunity is that Ethiopia’s current priority areas and aspirations are very similar with those of Kazakhstan. And there is much to learn from one another.

A new day has broken under the Ethiopian skies and hope and optimism have already started flickering in the East African ancient country. The new Administration led by the visionary World Peace Laureate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D) is working with a sense of urgency to make up for what had been lost over the past decades. The administration is charting out a better future to the over 100 million people of Ethiopia. 

Of course, his days have not come without challenges. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has inherited a backlog of socio-economic and political problems from his predecessors. But the good aspect is that since he assumed office in 2018, some of the major problems are squarely tackled.  For instance, the delayed construction of the flag-ship project,  the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is a hydro dam in the world’s longest river, Nile—a river shared by 11 countries— has been accelerated and as we speak, the hydro-dam has impounded around 14.5 BCM of water and will start its first generation of electricity in few months.  The project solely funded by Ethiopians has literally been redeemed from death over the last three years. This project would mean a lot to 60 percent of Ethiopians that has not seen electric light in this 21st C. Over and beyond, the entire African people would also take their lesson that it is possible to materialize mega projects with their own finance.

What is more, the capital, Addis Ababa, has got new grand parks and open spaces that are not only creating employment to citizens but also boosts tourism earning.  The projects namely Unity Park, Entoto Park, Friendship Park and Meskel Square-Addis Ababa City Hall projects have opened the eyes of the millions of citizens of Ethiopia that it is possible to part with poverty if there is real commitment from the government side. Our huge gap with project management has been tackled. The park’s projects which are the initiative of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) have brought an unprecedented lesson, among others, on how to complete huge projects on time.

The achievement made over the last three years has increased the people’s confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister. This is not a mere claim. Last June, he and his party won a landslide victory in an election that recorded a high voter turnout.  

The Prime Minister vowed to lead the country into prosperity in his message following the announcement of the election result by the country’s electoral body.

FDI is central to the country’s prosperity. In addition to aiming at creating employment to citizens and earning forex, the introduction of new technology to the country as a result of FDI is among the targets of the country. Kazakhstani investors can see potential areas in Ethiopia and enjoy the attractive incentives offered to foreign investors. Textile and garments, leather products, agro processing, construction, mining…are the countries priority areas. There is up to 100 percent customs duty exemption, income tax exemption up to 5 years to exporters or those who supply production or service to exporters. Also Investors who invest in agriculture, manufacturing and agro industry “will be eligible to obtain loan up to 70 % of their investment capital from development bank of Ethiopia.”

The ICT area is also no less a priority to Ethiopia. The first-ever AI Center was inaugurated last year. Ethiopia aspires to catch up with digital technology very soon.  Similarly, the country is working to benefit from space science and technology. The first earth observatory satellite of Ethiopia, ETRSS-1, was launched to space in December 2019. A communication satellite also took orbit recently. 

Both areas need highly specialized knowledge and skills and the two countries can further deepen cooperation in the education area. There is a growing demand for technologists in Ethiopia, and Kazakhstani specialization areas in the sciences sector would offer a unique opportunity to Ethiopian students. 

As Ethiopia is a reliable friend in the strategic Horn region with a 100 and plus millions of people, not to mention the conducive investment climate, Kazakhstan can tap this unique opportunity as part and parcel of its overseas investment to achieve its next level of prosperity. 

The author is Worku Belachew Asfaw, the Editor-in-Chief, The Ethiopian Herald.

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