When I think of Ethiopia I think of the terrible famines and emaciated human beings of the 1980s. The Ethiopia of 2012 is still desperately poor but making great strides in improving the well-being of its people. Since the turn of the millennium per capita economic growth has averaged just on 6%, double that of Australia. In the last five years the average has been 7.2%, the highest in sub Saharan Africa. If this rate continues Ethiopia will enter the World Bank’s middle income status in the lifetime of many of those alive today.
There has been a corresponding fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty. In the ten years to 2005 the proportion of the population living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 66% to 39%, and though data is not yet available, the strong economic growth since 2005 should have pushed it lower still. Child mortality, while still very high – more than 10% of children die before their fifth birthday – has more than halved since 1960, and life expectancy has risen to 58 years.
Of course, there are many if’s surrounding Ethiopia’s future, but what these stats tell me is that neither Ethiopia nor Africa are a lost cause. As I noted for Bangladesh, poverty is not fate.