Ethiopia Still Requires Food Aid, But Situation Is Improving

Its amazing what peace can actually do. In Ethiopia, crop production in 2004 was 24 percent higher than in the 2003, and 21 percent higher than the average of the previous five years according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program.

Ethiopia is not yet food self-sufficient, however, but it is slowly edging to that point. In 2004, for example, Ethiopia required 965,000 tons of food to help prevent hunger among 7 million people who lacked enough food. This year it will only require about 387,500 tons of food to aid 2.2 million people who are at risk of not having enough food.

In part, that food aid is needed due to drought in the eastern and southern parts of the country. But in the northern and western country — with Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea over for the moment — farmers were able to concentrate on improving yields with better seeds and fertilizer.


Ethiopia’s crop production up 24%. The BBC, February 2, 2005.

Boutros Boutros Ghali Predicts Regional Water Wars

In an interview with the BBC, former United Nations Secretary Boutros Boutros Ghali predicted that conflicts would soon arise between countries in the Nile basin over rights to water that flows through the Nile.

Egypt has long been the largest user of water from the Nile, but countries upstream are coming closer to more intensively using that water, which Boutros Ghali predicts will lead to conflict between Egypt and countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Boutros Ghali noted that Egypt’s population has more than tripled over the last 50 years and is still growing, putting heavy demand on Nile water resources. Boutros Ghali told the BBC,

The security of Egypt is related to the relation between Egypt and Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and other African countries. The real problem is that we need an additional quantity of water and we will not have an additional quantity of water unless we find an a agreement with the upstream countries which also need water and have not used Nile water until now.

But the BBC interview failed to mention a major overriding problem with water in the Middle East and Africa — it is almost universally mismanaged, since it relies on bureaucracies setting water targets and policies rather than letting markets dictate the true cost of water.

In Egypt, for example, 85 percent of water goes to agriculture, and agricultural water use is micromanaged to the point where government committees plan out a year in advanced which crops will be allowed to grow where and how water will be allocated among them. Not surprisingly the result is large-scale inefficiency and misallocation of water resources.

Mismanagement of water is almost universal, even in countries such as the United States which don’t yet have severe water problems. But places like the Middle East and Northern African simply cannot afford to protect industries or individuals from the true cost and scarcity of water. Unfortunately, doing so is likely to prove very politically unpopular, but one can always hope that developing countries might prefer transparent markets in water to conflicts between states that may lead to larger problems, while leaving the underlying problem uncorrected.


Ex-UN chief warns of water wars. Mike Thompson, The BBC, February 2, 2005.

You Mean Genocide and Corruption Aren’t Good for the Economy?

Speaking at a conference in Ethiopia, United Nations investment analyst stated the obvious — investors don’t want to put their money into Africa when they see genocide in Sudan, civil war in Ivory Coast, and the sort of endemic corruption in countries like Zimbabwe.

According to the BBC, Africa as a whole only sees about $15 billion total each year. That’s just pathetic.

Moreover, even in countries where there are not ongoing wars or endemic corruption, there is plenty to trouble investors. South African president Thabo Mbeki’s close relationship and support of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe, for example, must surely give some investors pause.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight to such problems, as Africa seems unable to get itself off a vicious cycle of war and corruption.


Africa conflicts ‘scare investors’. The BBC, November 22, 2004.

Ethiopia and the International Monetary Fund at Loggerheads Over Privatization

Ethiopian officials complained in September about International Monetary Fund requirements that it privatize several industries in order to receive further IMF aid. Ethiopia formally rejected IMF requirements that it privatize state-run telecommunications, power and water utilities.

The IMF agreed on a $190 million loan to Ethiopia in 2002 to reduce poverty in that country, and provided it with an emergency loan of $14.3 million in August 2003 to combat the effects of drought.

In a press release announcing the August loan, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman Shigemitsu Sugisaki said of Ethiopia’s economic performance,

Recent economic performance has been seriously affected by a severe drought in 2002, the worst in many years. As a result of the drought and a sharp drop in cereal production, real GDP declined in 2002/03, and food prices rose markedly. An estimated 12.6 million people are in need of food assistance.

Despite this shock, Ethiopia’s performance during the second annual program was broadly satisfactory. All the quantitative performance criteria and benchmarks through December 2002, as well as the indicative targets for end-March 2003, were observed. In particular, the introduction of the value-added tax was carried out in January 2003, a performance contract was signed with the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) in June 2002, and an audit of the CBE by independent auditors was completed in May 2003, after a delay of four months. The ongoing decentralization of fiscal powers to woredas (local districts), however, contributed to delays in the implementation of structural benchmarks (and HIPC Initiative completion point triggers) related to the improvement of public expenditure management.

Ethiopia apparently wants to retain a controlling interest in any utilities that it privatizes, even though at the moment the state industries represent a drain on Ethiopia’s budget.

Meanwhile, the World Bank and IMF plan to send representatives to Ethiopia by the end of November to evaluate Ethiopia’s progress in making structural changes that it agreed to in order to receive the 2002 loan.


Ethiopia hits out at IMF. The BBC, September 1, 2003.

Ethiopia rejects IMF proposal to privatize loss-making state firms. Agence-France Press, August 31, 2003.

IMF to send experts to review EthiopiaÂ’s achievements. Tamiru Geda, CapitalEthiopia.Com, September 29, 2003.

IMF Completes Review Under Ethiopia’s PRGF Arrangement and Approves US$14.3 Million Disbursement. Press Release, International Monetary Fund, August 28, 2003.

Ethiopian Immigrant Charged with Circumcising 2-Year-Old Daughter

An Ethiopian immigrant living in Atlanta, Georgia, was recently charged in that state for allegedly mutilating the genitals of his 2-year-old daughter. In Ethiopia, female genital mutilation is believed to be widespread, with as many as 70-90 percent of adult women having been subjected to it.

Khalid Adem, 27, is accused of using a pair of scissors to to mutilated his daughter sometime in 2001 when the girl was just 2-years-old. Authorities were made aware of the female genital mutilation after the girl’s mother — who says she was unaware of what had happened — took her for an apparently routine doctor’s visit. Adem has since been charged with cruelty to children and aggravated battery.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that The Centers for Disease Control and PRevention estimates that as many as 160,000 young girls and women in immigrant communities in the United States have experience female genital mutilation.

Adem’s family appeared at a preliminary hearing maintaining that his family did not practice female genital mutilation and that the mother of the girl was using this as part of a divorce case. Police testified that the 4-year-old girl told her doctor that Adem had performed the procedure on her while a friend of Adem’s held her legs.


Ethiopian in George charged with circumcising 2-year-old daughter. Associated Press, April 4, 2003.

Family defends man in circumcision case. Lateef Mungin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 8, 2003.

Man accused of circumcising girl. Lateef Mungin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 29, 2003.

More Warnings about Hunger in Ethiopia and Eritrea

Aid agencies and Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi warned this week that if international aid does not arrive soon, the numbers of people who could die in Ethiopia in 2003 will be even more than died in the 1984 famine which received international publicity and an outpouring of sympathy from Western nations.

“If that was a nightmare,” Zenawi told The Scotsman, “then this will be too ghastly to contemplate. We can’t cope on our own with the requirements of the current drought.”

United Nations World Food Program spokesman Wagdi Othman told The Scotsman,

There are six million people in need of food aid now and we think hat number will increase dramatically next year to ten to 14 million. A lot of people are already hungry and they are threatened by starvation. We will have a clearer picture by next year, but we can’t wait for those figures to come and we have been ringing alarm bells since June. No-one can say that they weren’t aware of this.

Neighboring Eritrea is also hard hit by the droughts, poverty, and continued hostilities between the two countries. At the moment the Eritrean government says that 1.4 million people will face food shortages through the end of next year, and that number is likely to climb to 2.3 million in a country of around 4 million people.

Interestingly, The Scotsman highlights a main problem with international relief efforts, quoting officials who admit that the 1984-inspired relief efforts didn’t even make a dent at long term structural changes in Ethiopia. The Band Aid and Live Aid fund raising efforts raised more than Pounds 110 million, most of which was spent on basic technology,

. . . and Penny Jenden, the former Band Aid chief executive, has since admitted that Africa is littered with the remains of tractors or drilling rigs that nobody knew how to mend.

Current aid efforts aren’t likely to do any better. Until Ethiopia and Eritrea decide to end all hostilities, reform their governments, and tackle poverty and other issues in earnest, the best donor nations can do is simply feed people who would otherwise starve and forget grandiose notions about preventing future famines.


Threat to 15 million as new famine hits Ethiopia. Gethin Chamberlain, The Scotsman, November 12, 2002.

Eritrea: Fear of hunger sets in. UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, November 10, 2002.