A strategic foreign policy to move Ethiopia forward

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By Betty D.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared before the House of People’s Representatives on 1st July 2019. He was presenting his government’s performance report for the year 2018-2019. During this particular year, a wind of change blew over Ethiopia and the Prime Minister’s report conveyed a message of meaningful partnership and of hope for the foreseeable future.
In the report, the Prime Minister adroitly articulated the broad lines of a stronger and highly focused foreign policy that effectively balances ideals with Ethiopia’s true potentials. This foreign policy has reached an unprecedented degree of coherence as it takes into full consideration the dynamic and ever-changing international environment.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its more than 60 diplomatic missions have been strengthening their capacities, increasing their resources and relying on meticulous analysis of sound facts. This transformation will enable them to implement Ethiopia’s foreign policy objectives with a clear sense of purpose and to better carry out desired diplomatic initiatives.
The starting point for Ethiopia’s new foreign policy is safeguarding the dignity, rights and interests of the citizens of Ethiopia. To this effect, the government has managed to get more than 15,000 Ethiopians released from detention in various countries with unprecedented determination.
The government also brought back to Ethiopia more than 76,000 citizens whose working contracts have been canceled for various reasons. Crucially, the government has signed labor agreements with hiring governments. At the very least, Ethiopian citizens will gain more secure employment abroad.
The centerpiece of Ethiopia’s new and non-confrontational foreign policy is mutual cooperation with neighboring countries in political, economic, technical and security areas. This improved cooperation is meant to eventually set in motion deeper regional economic integration mainly in infrastructure and energy. Moreover, well beyond what other countries are willing or able to provide, Ethiopia continues to responsibly maintain regional peacekeeping by deploying thousands of troops beyond its borders into Darfur, Abyei, South Sudan and Somalia.
With a foresight rarely seen in international politics today, Prime Minister Abiy wisely initiated towards Eritrea a policy of historic magnitude. It takes no great leap of imagination to realize that this bold policy has conferred on Ethiopia greater international legitimacy and will bring peace and prosperity to the Horn of Africa for years to come.
Prime Minister Abiy has thus sought to enhance the diplomatic role that Ethiopia plays regionally. Ethiopia launched a sustained diplomatic initiative to mediate the diplomatic dispute between Kenya and Somalia. Ethiopia also focused its explicit attention on ending the protracted conflict in South Sudan and thereby limits the suffering of the South Sudanese people. And, Ethiopia determinedly took another independent initiative to support the negotiations between the Transitional Military Council and the opposition forces within Sudan.
Moreover, Ethiopia is thriving to create a common regional policy on the Red Sea. This policy will provide Ethiopia the possibility to use multiple ports and to access the highly lucrative trade in this immensely affluent but unstable region. Ethiopia has also competently finalized preparations for the establishment of an agile naval force.
This naval force could respond to regional crises and could effectively ensure the peaceful movement of Ethiopia’s commercial ships. The naval force will also allow Ethiopia to adequately deal with the most urgent threats including piracy, international terrorist groups, organized criminal networks, insurgent armed groups and external powers’ competition.
At the continental level, Ethiopia is currently extending a warm welcome to all African visitors. They are allowed to enter Ethiopian territory with a visa on arrival. Moreover, Ethiopia has resolutely ratified the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area. This agreement will undoubtedly offer Ethiopia unprecedented opportunities to tap into Africa’s emerging markets and to enhance industrialization. It could also enable Ethiopia to possibly lure millions of USD in revenues every year and to generate thousands of new permanent and temporary jobs.
Various international institutions have offered Ethiopia increased financial assistance. This is coming to fruition because Ethiopia, more than ever, endorses economic and political freedom and fully complies with international and continental human rights commitments. Not surprisingly, Ethiopia has received over 3 billion USD in budget assistance during the past year for the implementation of its economic reforms.
Many countries have significantly increased their investment in Ethiopia’s gradually liberalizing economy that is generating wealth. And, other countries that have not been previously involved in foreign direct investment are now showing promising enthusiasm to pour millions of USD into Ethiopia’s vibrant economy.
The icing on the cake is the success of Ethiopia’s cultural diplomacy. Ethiopia secured assistance for the renovation of the Lalibela rock-hewn church, the Axum obelisk, the Jubilee palace and the Aba Jifar palace.
This assistance will allow these locations to become key tourist destinations. Ethiopia will thus be able to sustain the increase in tourism revenues and arrival as well as to create more jobs. It should also be noted that Ethiopia obtained immediate assistance to contain the fires in the Semien Mountains National Park.
Lastly, a high-ranking advisor to Prime Minister Abiy explained that “the report to the House of People’s Representatives clearly demonstrates that Prime Minister Abiy has a clear vision of where Ethiopia is going”. The good news for the advisor who asked not to be identified is that “Prime Minister Abiy adopted a solid form of strategic thinking of how Ethiopia could seize the diplomatic and economic opportunities throughout the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and Africa”.
According to the advisor, the report also demonstrates that Prime Minister Abiy has the exceptional ability to patiently balance bilateral diplomacy with multilateral diplomacy. This ability will allow him to capitalize on game-changing trends and shifts in international politics while protecting Ethiopia’s interests and to keep old friends while making new ones.

Ed.’s Note: Betty D. holds graduate degrees in international relations. She privately provides advice, analysis and research services. And, she occasionally writes on local and regional issues. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Capital. She can be reached on betteyd824@gmail.com