Ethiopia’s bullish economic outlook to boost ruling party’s chances of re-election


VENTURES AFRICA – Ethiopia’s economy is expected to grow by 9.5 percent this fiscal year ending June and at 10.5 percent in the next fiscal year, the World Bank said today. It added that inflation will remain in single digits during this period, which will further boost the already bright chances of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) ahead of Sunday’s election.

At a time when oil-based economies were booming, Ethiopia had matched up their growth with the impressive performance of its services and agricultural sector. The country recorded an average annual growth rate of 10.8 percent in 2003/04 – 2012/13, just 0.2 percent short of the government’s target for the past five years.

Despite boasting one of the world’s highest growth rates, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries across the globe. However, EPRDF’s efforts at making the lives of Ethiopians is evident. The ruling party has embarked on several infrastructure projects since the 2005 post-election crisis. It has also launched a scheme to reduce soaring unemployment by funding small businesses. Lars Christian Moller, the World Bank’s lead economist and program leader for Ethiopia believes the slump in global oil prices can add more gains.

Data from World Bank

“If lower oil prices are passed on to consumer in the form of lower fuel prices, it gives additional disposable income to consumers,” Moller said in Addis Ababa.

Moller said the service and agriculture sectors, along with the booming construction sector, are likely to drive growth in the next fiscal year. Inflation will average 7.2 percent this fiscal year, rising to 8.2 percent in the next.

Sunday’s election will be the first held under Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. He took office in September 2012 after the sudden death of Meles Zenawi, who had ruled for 21 years. But he is not expected to face much of a challenge. Apart from the accelerated economic growth of Ethiopia under the EPRDF, the ruling party boasts of a large support base of over six million members, as well as huge resources.

The closest to posing a real challenge is the Blue Party whose supporters have faced arrests, but the relatively new party remains confident it will snap up a lot of seats in the national legislature. While the EPRDF denies it interferes with the opposition, the government’s history of human rights abuse puts it on the spot. Press freedom is poor in the horn of African nation, where several journalists critical of the administration have been jailed.

But “Whatever else one may say about the ruling coalition, there is no denying the stability, economic growth, and development it has delivered,” said J. Peter Pham, head of Africa analysis at US think-tank the Atlantic Council.

Yeshi Assefa is one of the several Ethiopians who have gained from the government’s programmes and want the EPRDF to continue its 25-year rule. She was deported from Saudi Arabia in 2013 after leaving in search of greener pastures. But with the help of the government, Yeshi and 14 others now run a chicken farm. “Because the EPRDF government has done something for me I will vote for it,” she told The Guardian.