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Fighting against poverty: lessons from Ethiopia (Part 1)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

From 21st to 22nd June 2017 I joined delegates from China and Africa at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa for the Africa-China High-Level Dialogue and Think Tank forum under the theme ‘fighting against poverty for common prosperity.’

The forum was organized by the AU Leadership Academy and The Institute of African Studies of Zhejiang Normal University of China. The forum, which was chaired by the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E Mr. Kwesi Quartey, was graced by the Chinese Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr. Wang Yi, and Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Unfortunately, as I was planning to share the lessons from the forum with my readers our nation lost one of our country’s founding fathers, Sir Ketumile Masire. Rightly so, the subject of this series was shelved while we mourned the passing of the Democrat. In this multi-part series we learn lessons from Ethiopia. This week we learn lessons from Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, the Inter-ministerial Coordinator to the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.


These invaluable lessons, inspired by the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book ‘Up and Out of Poverty’ are on Ethiopia’s poverty reduction efforts, especially through its industrialization policy. In the main, Dr. Oqubay’s lessons are discussed in his book ‘Made in Africa.’ He argues that Africa needs to have vibrant industrial policy in order to transform its resources based economy to the industry-led one and to ensure sustainable development at the same time.


According to Dr. Oqubay, for Africa to emerge out of poverty she needs to invest heavily in Agriculture. It is partly though Agriculture, he said, that 718 million people have been pulled out of poverty in China since 1978. In his view, for Africa to win the war against poverty she needs to fight the poverty mentality. According to him, it is this poverty mentality which makes Africans less productive and reliant on foreign donations and aid. 


Starting from a poverty background, he argues, should not determine a person’s destiny because like the Chinese President Xi Jinping argues in his book ‘Up and Out of Poverty’ “a weak hatchling bird can be the first to fly”. Likewise, a poor person who works hard to break the cycle of poverty can be the first to attain wealth. Poor countries which industrialize their economies and develop industrial parks for instance can attain economic prosperity for all and relieve their people from the bondage of poverty.


In his view, for poverty to be eradicated or at least minimized it has to be fought over many generations. Not only that. The fight against poverty has to be as much relentless as it is targeted. It is only if we fight poverty to that extent that we will attain common prosperity for all. Dr. Oqubay, a former mayor of Addis Ababa and an internationally acclaimed author, argued that to eradicate poverty African countries need to develop industrial policies which focus on such core sectors as Agriculture, and the leather and horticulture industries.


He emphasized the centrality of science and technology in development, arguing that African governments should not regard investment as a relief, but should rather invest where there is a multiplier effect so that as many people as possible are uplifted from poverty. Borrowing from Xi Jinping’s mantra that ‘we must advocate an economic chorus’, Dr. Oqubay implores us, Africans, to pursue economic development like one singing a chorus. In Xi Jinping’s own words “… to sing in unison, a choir must focus on the theme and the rhythm. The same is true of economic work…”


Xi continues to say “… If every entity only stresses the importance of its own work, each following its own score and singing a different tune, the performance will inevitably fail. So, we must advocate an “economic chorus…” Therefore, according to Dr. Oqubay, for Africa to prevail against poverty she needs coordinated and organic development; she needs economic interventions that argument one another; her development interventions need to be in tandem with one another.


It is not only working in unison though that is requisite for poverty eradication. Persistence too is required. Once more Dr. Oqubay borrowed from president Xi’s words of wisdom-‘water droplets drilling through rock.’ Rock and water, president Xi says, are two opposing elements that are used to symbolize dogged stubbornness and gentle fluidity. Yet, despite being “gentle”, water will drill through “solid” rock over time.


In order to eradicate poverty and achieve prosperity for all, Dr. Oqubay contends, Africans have to work persistently in such sectors as Agriculture, Tourism and industry. Ethiopia, for example, persistently focused on such industries as leather and horticulture to turn around its economy. According to Dr. Oqubay it is not only economic growth that Africa requires to eradicate poverty. She also requires clean leadership as well as ethical leadership guided by integrity.  What Africa does not need are opinionated leaders drunk with political ideologies.


Africa, like president Xi contends, needs pragmatic leaders who always keep the people in mind; and seize new opportunities. She needs countries with proficient officials who work for the interests of the people. For us to eradicate poverty we need to open up the economy; sustainably exploit our natural resources for the benefit of our people; and develop new economic resources. We need to strengthen the great unity of all ethnic groups.


Dr. Oqubay agrees with president Xi that we can break the shackles of poverty if we work towards intellectual and cultural progress in impoverished arears of our countries. In his view, as is president Xi’s, if we enhance our strengths on the front line we can eliminate poverty.


This we can do by improving our education system, and, I would add, teaching education with production instead of mere theory without practice as is the case with most educational curricula in Africa. We need what president Xi calls paving the path to ‘Big Agriculture’ and building collective economic strength in townships and villages to alleviate poverty.


In the coming articles in this series we become practical in our discussion of how Africa in general and Botswana in particular can fight against poverty for common prosperity. We share lessons from such renowned scholars as Mr. Chen Zhigang, Dr. Newai Gabreal, Mr. Zhou Yuxiao, Mr. El-Hadj Bash and Mr. Li Dan. Without being prescriptive, we conclude the series by identifying the lessons we can use to enhance Botswana’s Poverty Eradication Strategy and the fight against poverty in general. We also share Botswana’s poverty reduction success story with the world.   

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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