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Home>Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre>Events>High Modernism, Extraversion & Conflict at the Frontier
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  • Date and time: Thursday 6 June 2019, 5pm to 6pm
  • Audience: Open to staff, students
  • Admission: Free admission, booking not required

Event details

In Ethiopia, the confluence of an extractive regime, high-modernist vision and state transformative agenda - notably a series of large hydro-electric dams and the Addis Ababa to Adama agro-industrial development corridor - have brought into sharp focus the capacity of governments to enforce such visions unhindered. Implemented through a decentralized but centrally controlled and authoritarian system of government, this paper shows that the state's ability to achieve its often simplified project visions is impeded by local responses and agendas, and in select cases, this incapacity engenders violence and conflict. Ethiopia's 2002 Foreign Affairs & National Security Policy and Strategy set out the economic, political and security underpinnings for the country's shift towards industrialisation and -- more significantly -- a globalised, market-oriented economy. The five year plans from 2006-10 and particularly 2010-15 (the Growth & Transformation Plan, GTP), and the current GTP II, have a focus on major infrastructure projects -- including vast hydro-electric dams and irrigation schemes, road and rail networks and industrial parks -- intended to create the basis for an export-oriented economy. The ruling Ethiopian People's Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) set out a robust vision of taming nature and ending a 'shameful' backwardness and aid-dependency. However, that vision bore the hallmarks of an increasingly concentrated leadership in the hands of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Following his death in 2012, the EPRDF has struggled to articulate a new vision, relying rather on the strategy laid out by the 'architect' of Ethiopia's growth. Since 2015, the EPRDF has faced a series of widespread, grassroots protests, which targeted aspects of the modernist, industrial vision. The government declared a six-month state of emergency in October 2016, which while eventually lifted in August 2017, was reimposed in February 2018, following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn. One of the declared aims of the EPRDF during the emergency has been to update its 2002 strategy. What factors influence and constrain the EPRDF's ability to articulate a new vision for the country's future? This chapter argues that the ability of the Ethiopian government to implement top-down developmental visions is limited, and that this process often times demands negotiations with other players, necessitating a fragmentation of state power. By examining the ability and capacity of state bureaucracy in Ethiopia in enforcing its developmental aims in peripheral regions, this paper builds on the concepts of 'illiberal state-building' and 'developmental authoritarianism' to address the wider literature on the African state.