View from Mount Entoto.
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
Developments in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country, after Nigeria. The population is increasing by approximately two million a year and is fast approaching the 100 million line. Ethiopia holds a special position in Africa, with its history of uninterrupted independence, apart from the short-lived Italian occupation between 1936 and 1941.
Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia from 1916. A famine contributed to him being overthrown by the military in 1974. That led to the proclamation of a socialist state and a violent campaign against dissidents. A new famine in the 1980s contributed to a growing armed resistance against the regime. Since the fall of the military regime in 1991, domestic politics has largely been dominated by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
The situation in Ethiopia is contradictory. Political elections are conducted regularly but the democratic legitimacy is questioned, and the government has taken a tougher position against political opposition in recent years. Human rights are guaranteed by the national constitution, but they are not respected. New laws have effectively put an end to foreign aid to human rights work, and paved the way for limited freedom of speech and bad legal security. The negative development of democracy has resulted in serious restrictions in development cooperation.
Meanwhile, the government's ambitious plan to reduce poverty has been successful in some areas. Particularly in the education and health sector, where several projects have improved the situation for the country's many poor people. But illiteracy is still widespread, food shortage is a big problem and mortality from communicable diseases is high.
Important choice of path for the future
Ethiopia is facing severe challenges. Heavy increases in population accompanied by more frequent droughts are putting severe pressure on the poor and on the environment. Agriculture is the basis of the economy and employs around 80 per cent of the working population. It is old-fashioned and sensitive to drought. The future requires million farmers to become self-sufficient while sustainable development is stimulated.
The lack of democratic development has strongly influenced the Swedish development cooperation. Increased support now goes to strengthen the democratization process in the country. Cooperation with local organisations aims to strengthen civil forces in a democratic development.
Sweden's focus areas in Ethiopia:
- Democracy and human rights
- Economic and social development.