The Korea Herald


‘Ethiopia’s renaissance follows Korean development’

By Korea Herald

Published : April 26, 2015 - 18:34

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Korea has been a paragon of progress for Ethiopia, which has developed rapidly since 2000.

The Ethiopian economy grew by over 10 percent annually between 2004 and 2009, slowing to nearly 7 percent since 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Some political commentators have called Ethiopia the “African Lion,” a term similar to the “Asian Tiger,” which described Korea during its period of speedy development.

Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome visited Korea in mid-April to benchmark Korea’s development experience and boost ties in diplomacy, business and education.

“Ethiopia is going through a national renaissance, following Korea’s model of development,” Teshome told The Korea Herald in an interview. “Under a strong government guiding the national development, millions have escaped poverty and disease, and now hope for a brighter future.”

The Ethiopian government aims to elevate the economy into a middle-income category by 2025 with the help of its five-year Growth and Transformation Plans. Korea also had its own series of seven five-year economic development plans between 1962 and 1996, leading to the “compressed development” of the economy.

Ethiopia’s president attributed his country’s success to having a clear vision of advancing leadership; pursuing realistic policies with a rational assessment of realities; and promoting strategic public-private partnerships to remedy market failures.

“The general philosophy behind all of this is to have a democratic developmental state,” Teshome said, adding that Ethiopia has a lot to learn from Korea’s Saemaul Undong, a nationwide community movement launched in 1970 to modernize rural towns.

Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald) Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Most recently, the Korea International Cooperation Agency has been providing vocational training and organizational assistance to agricultural projects in Ethiopia.

During his weeklong visit, Teshome met Korean President Park Geun-hye and participated in the opening ceremony of the World Water Forum in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province. He was also greeted by business leaders from the Korean Federation of Industries, Daegu Chamber of Commerce and Industries, LG Electronics, CJ Corporation, and agricultural machinery and textile companies.

Teshome acknowledged the appreciation of the Korean government and people for Ethiopia’s participation in the Korean War (1950-1953), in which 6,000 Ethiopian troops fought as part of the United Nations’ forces.

Ethiopia and Korea established diplomatic relations in 1963. “Our solidarity and fraternity will serve as a springboard for future cooperation,” the president emphasized.

After finishing high school in Ethiopia, Teshome won a government scholarship to study in China. Between 1978 and 1982, he obtained an undergraduate degree in the philosophy of political economy at Peking University, where he developed an understanding of Asian cultures.

He worked in the Ethiopian government for two years and returned to Peking University for a masters and doctorate in international law. Teshome went on to become the Ethiopian ambassador to China, Japan and Turkey, before becoming the president in 2013.

Teshome highlighted investment and construction opportunities in Ethiopia’s water and green energy sectors. In late March, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan reached a historic agreement to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would generate over 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia and its neighbors.

The $5 billion project will make it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant, part of a long line of mega-sized infrastructure projects aimed at turning Ethiopia into a regional powerhouse.

“Building the dam is a matter of existence for Ethiopia,” Teshome said. “Our people must change the state of affairs to which we belong today. We are not willing to continue our same way of life.”

The president said the project will lead to trust and integration in the Horn of Africa region. It will also improve water management, create jobs and spur community development in the Nile Basin, he said.

In March, Ethiopia met target No. 10 of its Millennium Development Goals to provide safe drinking water and sanitation services to its citizens. The five-year plan places water supply at the core of its objectives.

“We will build together and prosper together,” Teshome said. “To build a prosperous nation requires energy, which lies in water in Ethiopia. We will kick-start our industries and forge an industrialized society.”

Teshome also called upon Korean educators and researchers to work in Ethiopia, as 10 universities will be added every five years to the current 36 universities in the country.

Lee Jang-gyu, a retired professor of electrical engineering from Seoul National University, has been the president of Adama Science and Technology University in Addis Ababa since 2011. He is the first Korean university president in Africa.

Korean professionals in the field of information communication technology are welcome at a technopark in Addis Ababa currently under construction, Teshome added.

Highlighting the Third International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Addis Ababa in July, he said, “The importance of the conference is to have a shared vision with the international community about financing development as we jump into the 2015-2020 period’s post-millennium goals for development.”

“Ethiopia has marvelous and magnificent projects lined up to protect the environment and shift to renewable energy, all in the interest of the international community. We call on the world to take part in this grand undertaking under the umbrella of financing development.”

The president called on the international community to pay attention to poverty, disease and violence in Africa. Without a combined international effort, he said, Africa’s problems will spill over to other regions, as demonstrated by the entry of refugees into Europe.

“If the world doesn’t care about Africa,” Teshome warned, “terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab will multiply, and the Islamic State can extend operations to Africa.

“The international community, with the help of African countries, must prevent this from happening. This will be the voice of Ethiopia to the world during the conference.”

By Joel Lee (