Ethiopia: a fast-growing country engaged in sustainable development
Here is today’s question: Is sustainable development a luxury most less developed countries cannot afford?
The answer of Mulugeta Seid Damtew, Minister of Cultural Tourism in Ethiopia is straightforward: No. Sustainable development has to be taken into account and the Ethiopian government has engaged in a steady campaign to promote environmentally friendly ways of developing natural resources, raising awareness about the importance of preserving the environment, and eco-tourism.
As a confirmation of this answer, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo to Germany, Kamanga Clementine Shakembo also came to the ICD to talk about the challenges and opportunities of eco-tourism in the DRC.
Ethiopia has experienced rather impressive economic growth over the last years and has therefore become a central focus for many international institutions. The country has also achieved most of the Millenium Development Goals. As an example, there has been a decrease of the poverty rate from 50% to 29%. A lot of questions arose from this growth for the Ethiopian government: how to transform this growth into sustainable development? How to secure the future of the country while adopting environmentally friendly policies? What about the redistribution of wealth?
Hon. Mulugeta Seid Damtew presents Ethiopia as an extraordinarily diverse country. Indeed, Ethiopia is the home of an ancient civilization. It is also the homeland of a great variety of cultures and languages. Ethiopia is also home of an extraordinary landscape with a great variety of living species and natural resources. So how can Ethiopia preserve these extraordinary assets while using them to develop the country? The Ethiopian government has; for example, abandoned development based on the exploitation of fossil energies and engaged itself in a green economy plan for 2030.
One of the greatest challenges Ethiopia actually faces is the attraction of investors. And for that matter, Ethiopia needs to be branded positively. This is why Mulugeta Seid Damtew came back on the notion of “nation-branding”. The most essential element of nation-branding would be natural resources. It is clear that the whole African continent needs to rethink the use and the preservation of its own natural resources.
On this basis, which strengths should be emphasized by the government? As we mentioned, natural resources are a big part of it: agriculture, mineral resources and emerging educational development. These are important resources that can be used in Ethiopia´s nation-branding efforts. Hon. Mulugeta Seid Damtew mentions that Ethiopians have to think broader and show their potential to contribute to the development of the world. Branding themselves in term of sustainable and eco-friendly development is a good way to achieve this goal.
The other challenge that Ethiopia faces concerns the wealth and comfort of its own people. Development and growth is one thing but this cannot be separated from better education and an increased redistribution of wealth. Indeed, Mulugeta Seid Damtew underlines the importance of youth empowerment: “the youth has to be educated politically, scientifically and socially for the responsibilities of a middle income country in the near future”.
Finally, the minister comes back on an important notion: cooperation and cultural diplomacy. He underlines the very positive output that could come out of a deeper cooperation between Europe and Africa. He describes Africa as the “old continent”. There is indeed a rich archeological, historical and cultural heritage there. Africans see Africa as the source of human origins. Europe on the other hand, “brings modernity, technological advancement and both need each other”.
All in all, a very positive perspective…