Meles’s Development Paradigm and Its Impacts on Economic Transformation in Ethiopia

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Oct 6th, 2012
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Repressive regimes like that of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (centre, after elections in 2010) have skilfully exploited ethnic diversity to their advantage by bestowing economic, political and employment benefits along ethnic lines. Photograph by: THOMAS MUKOYA REUTERS FILE PHOTO, Freelance

“We are making progress on the economic front though not necessarily according to the standard orthodox
prescription, so some people think there must be something wrong…”Late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi
1. Introduction
n August 20, 2012, Ethiopia lost its brave son the late prime minster Meles
Zenawi. When the state media announced his death, various international
news agencies reported about the death of the prime minster the way they
perceived him. Many newspapers presented his significant contribution in social,
economic and political development in the country. In contrast to these, few individual
and organization tried to write a report against the fact that prevailed in the country. For
instance International Crisis Groups (ICG) said that Ethiopia’s much praised economic
development was not as robust or cost free as Meles would have wanted or as the
international community believes (ICG, 2012). Such kind of flawed report or analysis
arose mainly due misunderstanding the recent social and economic development in the
country or purposely construed to undermine the contribution of our late Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi. Chicago boys like ICG and Mesay Kebede who would like to shape
Ethiopia in their own image cannot understand the prevailed structural transformation
observed in Ethiopia during the last eight years. It is the responsibility of all Ethiopians to
remember and maintain the legacy of our late Prime Minster. We want stable and
prosperous Ethiopia as well as independent nation that depend on the vision of its leaders.
I think this is against of the interest ICG and its scholars.

During his term as president and Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi was a leader, policy
maker and also a nation builder. In one of his monograph released in Chicago
University, Meles Zenawi argues that, the neoliberal paradigm is dead end incapable of
bringing about the Africa renaissance. To this effect, he adamantly recommended a
fundamental shift in a new paradigm and the need for African states in general and
Ethiopia in particular to move towards becoming developmental state. Unlike his fellow
contemporary African leaders, Meles brilliantly distinguished himself as a prominent propoor
economic activist and formidable actor in the neoliberals’ discourse (Alazar Kebede,
2012). In his speech on Africa Challenges and visions for development, Meles said that
Africa’s conditions thus remain precarious and without fundamental rethinking of our
development path it would be unlikely for Africa to be able to manage bringing about
meaningful change in the economic domain. The purpose of this article is to present
Meles’ development paradigm and its contribution on economic transformation in
This article is consisting of six sections including an introduction. The second section
explains the concept of development paradigm. The third section discusses about the
major types development paradigms: Neoliberal and Developmental State. The fourth
section identifies the major argument of our late prime minister on the democratic
developmental state. The fifth section analyses the economic transformation achieved in
the country after the developmental state has been in place in Ethiopia. The last section
presents the conclusion and recommendation.

2. What is development paradigm
Development paradigm is a completely new way of thinking that can bring social,
economic and political transformation to improve the well being of the society. It is a
modality or path to follow to achieve development, based on a codified set of activities
and/or based on a vision regarding the functioning and evolution of a socio-economic
system (FAO, 2011). In other words a development paradigm is an economic system for
development that is composed of interactive functions among markets, governments, and
institutions (ADB, 2003). It should be understood as a statement of the core values that a
nation or regional grouping should adhere to in the future whenever it formulates
policies, makes strategic choices and takes administrative action. According to Abonyi
Nichodemus Nnaemeka (2009), the basic assumptions of the development paradigm are
as follows:

  •  Development is not economic growth even though economic growth in large measure determines its possibility. A development paradigm cannot, therefore, be judged merely by its conduciveness to economic growth although this criterion of judgment is not irrelevant to its validity.
  •  Development is not a project but a process.
  •  Development is the process by which people create and recreate themselves and their life circumstances to realize higher levels of civilization in accordance with their own choices and values.
  •  Development is something that people must do for themselves, although the help of others can facilitate it. If people are the end of development, as is the case, they are also necessarily its agents and its means.
  •  Africa and the global environment are to be taken as they are and not as they ought to be. What the paradigm contributes is some idea of what they can be. Read More

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