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Fighting against poverty: lessons from Ethiopia (Part II)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Two weeks ago I started what I promised would be a multi-part series on the lessons from the Africa-China High-Level Dialogue and Think Tank forum held in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, from 21st to 22nd June 2017 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. In part 1, we shared lessons from Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, the Inter-ministerial Coordinator to the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. As shown in the article, the lessons, mainly from his book ‘Made in Africa’, were inspired by the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book ‘Up and Out of Poverty’.

I promised that in forthcoming articles we will share lessons from such renowned scholars as Mr. Chen Zhigang, Dr. Newai Gabreal, Mr. Zhou Yuxiao, Mr. El-Hadj Bash and Mr. Li Dan. Unfortunately the series was disrupted by the attention that had to be given to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) following its tumultuous Bobonong congress. This week we share lessons from Dr. Newai Gabreal, former Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Dr. Gabreal, Director of Ethiopian Development Research Institute, presented a paper titled: The Experience of Developing State in Ethiopia: Lessons for the Continent & Beyond.     

Dr. Gabreal’s treatise was based on a triad of rhetoric questions which, for the purposes of this article, I will refer to as the Gabreal triad. The first question he asked was: ‘Is the experience of the developmental state unique to North-East Asian countries’? He wondered whether it is these countries’ cultural back ground which has made them reduce poverty levels to the extent they have. Prima facie, the question appears to be a nugatory since it suggests that some people’s cultures have such inherent defects as to predispose them to poverty.

He further posited whether it is the countries’ historical back ground that has made them attain such impressive levels of development. Is it possible, he posited, that the war between the United States of America and Japan, for example, made the Japanese people more industrious and enterprising? The second leg of the Gabreal triad was the question: ‘what are the essential characteristics of the developmental state?’ In his view one such characteristic is division of labour between the state and private sector.

In this realm, he argues, the state defines the direction of labour while the private sector implements developmental programmes. This, in his view, is a combination of socialism and capitalism. Though he did not expressly say that, he seemed to suggest, albeit in undertones, that these two political ideologies, which have divided the world, are not necessarily irreconcilable, but can augment each other for the good of humanity. Could it, therefore, be that one reason for the success of the economies of the North-East Asian countries is that they do not restrict themselves to one political ideology, say capitalism as in Botswana’s case?

Is it not incontrovertible that no political system is perfect? Is it not instructive that instead of limiting itself to capitalism the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could at least borrow some socialist ideas if that would advance the developmental state it seeks to achieve? After all, the ordinary person in the street does not really care about political ideologies. All Batswana need is a decent life. Government should, therefore, fight against poverty for common prosperity without the limitation of a political ideology.  

Still under the second leg, Dr. Gabreal argues that it is possible that one of the essential characteristics of the developmental state is the zeal to catch up with economically advanced countries. Countries with such enthusiasm strive to be owners of technology. Not only that. They also strive to grow industry and transfer technology. Perhaps this is what Botswana should seek to achieve. The question is: are such institutions as Botswana Innovation Hub and Botswana Institute of Technology, Research & Innovation assisting Botswana in that regard?

Does Botswana, for instance, have an Industrialization Policy? Is the Industrialization Policy, if any, in tandem with the National Poverty Reduction Strategy? Does our development focus on core sectors of the economy? Is science and technology central to our development programme? Gabreal also seems to suggest that one of the essential characteristics of the developmental state is efficient leadership. He posed piercing questions: ‘in Ethiopia it is not efficient leadership, but then what?’ Almost in an attempt to negate his question he further quizzed: ‘It is not authoritarian leadership, but then what’?

In my view, the other essential characteristic of the developmental state is hard work. Some call it smart work. There is a widely held view that people from North-East Asian countries are hard workers.  On the contrary, Batswana, for example, are said to be lazy. Could this be true? Can hard work and laziness be part of a people’s culture?  The third leg of the Gabreal triad was the question: ‘Are these characteristics replicable’? Put differently, can the essential characteristics of the developmental state discussed above be replicated in other countries?

Using the Ethiopian experience Dr. Gabreal argued that they are indeed replicable though they have to be relevant to a particular environment. According to him, instead of going the industrialization route as the North-East Asian countries did, Ethiopia opted for Agriculture. So did Botswana though Agriculture’s contribution to her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains inexplicably low. While some blame poor rains for this, others blame the state sponsored Agricultural programmes for being based on a hand out model rather than an entrepreneurial model.

The other mistake that government has made is to regard Agriculture as a relief and not an investment. In several Agricultural programmes, Government has, therefore, failed to follow the cardinal rule that one should invest where there is a multiplier effect. Also, they argue that though Agriculture can really thrive in rural areas, most rural areas lack such facilities as electricity and good roads that could attract business oriented farmers and youthful farmers to rural areas. Yet some blame the ‘resource curse’, arguing that it is because of the abundance of minerals, especially diamonds, that Botswana became too comfortable and failed to industrialize her economy in a diversified manner.

Back to Gabreal’s primal question: Is the experience of the developmental state unique to North-East Asian countries? In my view, it is not. Baring such things as corruption and poor governance the experience can be replicated in all countries of the world, including Botswana.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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