Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Will Africa Get it, Short Term Ideology of Hailemariam Desalegn

When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Marched on Addis Ababa in 1991, one expected something new, after all the EPRDF had just overthrown one the worst dictators in Africa post world war two since Ethiopia was never colonized, that of the Derg under the leadership of Mengistu. The ideology of the Derg was in truth to maintain power, but like the Ethiopia of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Derg continued to support the ideology of black freedom on the continent of Africa, but that little good does not override the misery it caused in Ethiopia, that is why Mengistu was able to run to another dictator after he was toppled, that dictator being Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who has just won “resounding” support in an election voted for by the same people he beat up in 2008 when they did not vote for him.

When the EPRDF won Ethiopia a lot of the black peoples yearning for freedom around the continent thought surely after Mengistu something new would be presented to the African continent true freedom, not just another group that has won power and aims to keep that power to itself instead of giving people freedom. But to be fair to the EPRDF it did introduce democracy in Ethiopia, but is that a reason to hold onto power. The act of introducing democracy is itself heroic and puts them into history books. 1991 I remember just having finished high school talking with friends that dictators can be toppled, the only maintenance on power is their monopoly off weapons, once that is nullified they go running. We were proud of the EPRDF.

In recent years the economy of Ethiopia has grown at an amazing rate, but is their model sustainable in the very long run, 100 why not 150 years from today. Hailemariam Desalegn insists that he will continue with the economic policies set up by his predecessor Meles Zenawi, tight control of banking sector, tight control of telecommunications sector and tight control of retail sector. These are crucial sectors and reading an article by Katrina Manson on 27 May for the financial times, Hailemariam Desalegn admitted that the telecoms sector is a cash cow, and he suggested why liberalize the sector when the money can flow to the government. As a man who believes in freedom such a statement was shocking, so what happens when the Telecoms sector is no longer a cash cow.

In terms of Africa, Ethiopia is a very important country, it has 85 million people and a very diverse population in terms of language and culture. If the country could get its ideology into an acceptable order, understanding what creates, Ethiopia would be a beacon of hope for Africa as it was during the colonial period. The EPRDF already acknowledges that Ethiopia is not as well endowed with natural resources like say the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, or Ghana, but Ethiopia has one thing in abundance people. People have minds, and the mind is the most important resource, of what use is coal if the mind does not know how to use that coal.

Ethiopia has to unleash the most important resource, the minds of the people, that is all it really has. That can only be done by making people equal in the eyes of the law. What one person can do all other people can do. If one person can have a bank, all others can start a bank as they are equal before the law. If the state can own a bank all others can own a bank, because they are equal in the eyes of the law. If the government of Ethiopia can own a telecoms company, then any other Ethiopian with the means, vision and drive should be allowed to own a telecommunications company as they are equal to the state in the eyes of the law, that unfortunately to all who claim to give freedom is what freedom is, anything less will never be freedom, anything less is a feudal mind.

When Hailemariam Desalegn says he does not want to adopt the “western liberal” model, he does not understand that this model is based on inequality, on the concept that others are allowed and others are not, it does not matter the spin that is put on it, it is not a model of freedom. Thousands of people run from horrid conditions around the world to the west because of the propaganda that the west is freedom only to find by law they are denied freedoms and must do menial jobs, their life being their only reward. One is not free to be in the west as people are not equal under the law, try and start a bank in Canada or Europe, one would think it is easy with all the propaganda they hear about freedom, but it is illegal, you will end up in jail if you try to compete with the established banks or telecommunication companies. There is nobody in the IMF or world bank who wants to see equality before the law as a model, because there is no equality before the law in Europe, Canada, Japan, or USA, that is a simple fact. Therefore, nobody is asking Prime Minister Desalegn to follow or accept advise from Western Institutions.

What freedom loving Africans expected from the EPRDF in 1991 was the introduction of real freedoms. Africa to truly catch up in economic terms needs to be the most free continent in the world. Every Ethiopian has to be equal under the law, what one Ethiopian can do so can another, it is 2013, this will allow the creative forces in the minds of Africans to be released, there is no other way, everything is connected, the cash from the cash cows should be competed for to see who is best service provider. As long as there is no competition that sector will always wait for innovations from outside before it moves ahead, with competition, Ethiopians will become innovative as they try to improve their services and products, not always waiting for innovation from outside.

Everything is interconnected when it comes to economics, banking, telecoms, farming, they all follow the same philosophy, you can’t free the heart and regulate the liver. You can’t regulate the lungs and free the legs, for the body to operate optimally everything has to be free. By introducing concept of equality before the law, in 150 years time Ethiopians will thank the EPRDF, indeed most of Africa would probably thank the EPRDF. It would be nice to see the next generation of holograms invented in Ethiopia, or Africa in general, that can only be done by freeing up the economy right now.

What you have just read is different from the advise African countries get officially from the West, for example the Western advisor will approach an African country and say privatize your telecommunications sector sell it to a western corporation as the private sector runs things better than government, and they will show a lot of statistics to prove their point. Then they will demand that the monopoly remains, that is hardly freedom, that is the so called “western liberal model”, a far concept from freedom. Western people who could give good advise don’t go near the IMF and World Bank, they are known as Libertarians, people who follow the methodology founded by Carl Menger.

Equality before the law, that is what Ethiopia and Africa need, too far behind in economic terms to ignore the human potential of each individual. Everybody must be free to do, no feudal mentality. The law must have no hierarchy.

Bhekuzulu Khumalo
Twitter: @bhekukhumalo

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Bhekuzulu Khumalo

I write about knowledge economics, information, liberty, and freedom