Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Norris McDonald | BLACKstory! Political lessons of the Ethiopian ‘Green Revolution’

Published:Sunday | February 16, 2020 | 12:33 AM

“And you shall know the [bitta] truth!

And the [bitta] truth shall set you free!”

The Book of John 8:32

The Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has the fastest-growing economy in the world today, with an average growth rate of 9.5 per cent over the last 10 years.

This phenomenal 10-year average, high economic growth of almost 10 per cent, beats China, America, Russia, India, Germany, and Great Britain, among another 194 economies tracked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dr Peter Kagwanja of Kenya’s African Policy Institute first reported this fact and it was confirmed by the World Bank and the IMF.

Agriculture contributes to 45 per cent of Ethiopia’s gross domestic production (GDP) with roughly 80 out of every 100 Ethiopians earning a living from rural economic activity life, suffering ‘low income’ and ‘hand-to-mouth’ survival.


Rapid industrialisation and a strategy of poverty reduction is significantly helping to lift Ethiopians’ standard of living.

In 2013, the Ethiopian government developed a national, political economic plan with four key goals:

Accelerate economic growth.

Make the people benefit from the economic activity.

Improve the country’s position in the world economy.

Accelerate economic development with a focus on the market orientation of the economy.

Now this economic plan has created such positive results that Ethiopia may well be the envy of 194 nations in the world.

Ethiopia’s ‘Green-Agricultural Revolution’ is one reason for this well-talked-about economic success. Under this ‘Green Revolution’, a massive effort was made to plant 350 million trees in 2019. Environmental scientists say that the country is greener than it has ever been in the last 145 years.

Overall, deforestation was a major problem that had to be tackled and solved.

The loss of green, arable, fertile land helped to create terrible drought and famine, severely affecting poor people. Even given Ethiopia’s remarkable success, there is a lot more that still urgently needs to be done, as a high level of poverty still affects many of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

Therefore, although Ethiopia’s ‘Green Revolution’ created positive results, it would be wrong to think that all social and economic problems have been solved.

Hunger and poverty alleviation are still major priorities.

There is also the need to continue curbing soil erosion, reclaim more land and tackle issues such as perennial drought that had made life harder for Ethiopians.

The US$4 billion Blue Nile River dam is one major infrastructure project, for hydroelectricity, that also deals with the issue of redistributing water resources.

Ethiopia also invested in other major infrastructural projects, with World Bank and other development assistance to build:

Modern irrigation systems with lined canals to create a stable water supply for rural areas to help farmers water their fields.

Rural feeder roads to improve rural transportation and help farmers take their crops to the market.

Farmer-to-market, improved marketing, to generate greater efficiencies in food sales and profit returns to farmers.

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s 54 countries emerging from centuries of colonial and imperialist rule that undermined the continent’s political economic potentials.

In his BLACKstory book, Capitalism and Slavery (1944), Dr Eric Williams shows us how the black diaspora emerged from colonialism, with political economic structures that were geared towards serving the needs of the capitalist world market.

Slavery, imperialism, and neocolonial dominance led to the unjust enrichment of the Western industrialised nations.

At one end of the political economic spectrums, there was pauperism in the Black Diaspora and, at the other end, extreme wealth that still continues to flow from poor countries to the rich Western industrialised nations.

Dr Walter Rodney in his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, also reveals how raw materials such as gold, diamond, oil, gypsum, bauxite, manganese, iron, ore, silver, and other precious minerals became the fundamental basis for the unjust enrichment of the big capitalist countries.

Williams, Rodney, and many other enlightened writers exposed the false narratives of the emissaries and acolytes of the West, who blames the black victim of slavery and imperialist colonial rule for the economic destruction that was created by the neocolonial powers.

Successful BLACKstories repudiates the myths – sadly peddled by some misinformed and uninformed middle-class intellectuals – that diaspora must forever remain indebted, and bonded, to international capitalism, follow the blind, foolish tutelage from the moribund high priests of the IMF.

This may seem shocking, but it is ‘the bitta truth!’

On the way to success, Ethiopia had to resolve deep, bitter internal conflicts.

Some of these stemmed from 1974 military coup that overthrew His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, a legendary leader, much revered by Rastafarians as ‘a living god’.

A long-running secessionist war with the breakaway province of Eritrea was finally, positively, resolved by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This won him a well-deserved 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.


Today, Ethiopia’s BLACKstory is a true enlightenment that the fountain of wisdom does not lie among educated elites but must emerge from the collective national spirit of a politically energised people.

Ethiopians are teaching the world the importance of:

Political economic planning with a key aim of lifting poor people out of poverty;

Using agriculture as an important foundation of political economic transformation;

Not to think that only the educated elites and foreigners have all the answers and solutions to the everyday problems of life; and, finally

The importance of having a positive attitude in which national leaders unite the people; instill a true spirit of confidence and self-reliance; and motivate poor people to work harder to help lift themselves out of poverty.

The human spirit – the human energy – is truly a powerful, transformative force; therefore, we must learn from Ethiopia a positive lesson that investment must be made in poor people, and not in the self-serving, self-enrichment of politicians.

It is this mobilisation of a national spirit of self-reliance that can motivate people to take actions to help uplift themselves out of poverty.

That is just the bitta truth!

- Norris McDonald is an economic journalist, social researcher and political analyst. Email feedback to and