Ethiopia: Loosening State of Emergency Propels Steady Growth –

Photo: Addis Fortune

Atikilt tera, main supplier of fruits and vegetables around piazza.


It’s been more than five months since Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in response to widespread protests and unrest. The country’s first state of emergency in more than quarter century aimed at normalizing what the government calls a “worsening security situation” in Oromia and Amhara regional states.

Recently, the government revealed that some of the restrictions imposed by the state of emergency have been lifted.

Accordingly, the command post, which is charged with enforcing the country’s state of emergency in the wake of unprecedented mass protests against government policies, would no longer be able to arbitrarily arrest people or conduct property searches without court warrants. Further, curfews and some restrictions on media reporting and social media activism have come to an end.

Five months earlier, the government announced that the declaration of the state of emergency is needed due to difficulties in keeping law and order through the regular security command. As a result, the government was forced to restrict some rights of citizens for a time lasting up to six months.

Right after the declaration lasts for four months, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said “As of now, the state of emergency has accomplished its goal. We have to ensure that the goal is long-lasting, as long as we have ensured that, the state of emergency can be lifted anytime,” speaking to Journalists in January.

The measure apparently brought calm to the country that was marching to full scale turmoil. But it also limited people’s right to free speech, independent movement and many more democratic rights, which some call it a “blessing in disguise”.

At the same time, congruent to the critics of international media and human right organizations, certain subjects of the security forces may have used the loophole in the state of emergency that allows arbitrary detentions and property searches in bias that may have resulted in mistreatment of citizens, tortures as well as looting of private properties. The line that permits arbitrary detention of citizens has been halted by the recent lifting, and hence the risk to this mistreatment on citizens will be reduced, if not completely avoided.

Furthermore, as the state of emergency legitimately impose confinement to people’s free movement, and the fact that some states like the government of UK and US issuing travel warning to their respective citizens following its declaration; it certainly have significantly affected government businesses, tourism industry, private businesses and diplomatic missions’ activities. However now, some significant restrictions from the state of emergency are dislodged, it is very likely that this will guarantee for things to get back to normalcy.

In light of the fact that the Ethiopian government has been trying to transform the structure of the economy from agriculture to industry for over 20 years, it has been focusing particularly on investing in infrastructure and public projects – like building new roads, railways and dams – supported by high levels of financial inflow from the international community in the forms for loans and grants.

In the meantime, the country has opened its doors to international investors leading to the flock of foreign investment to the country including high profile international corporations. This can help narrow the country’s trade balance deficit. However, the declaration of state of emergency has resulted in a slump of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) performance.

Legitimizing this statement, Fitsum Arega, commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission told Bloomberg in February, “as a result of the declaration, the country attracted $1.2 billion in the six months through the end of December, compared with $1.5 billion in the same period a year earlier”. However, the recent lifting of some of the restrictions will undoubtedly ensure regaining momentum in investment, which probably reinvents the country’s development path.

As Ethiopia bids to claim more investment from foreign firms, some big names being already in the pipeline, lifting the state of emergency provides guarantee to potential investors around the corner to have full confidence on the stability of the country, accruing their flow. Besides, the trust that these investors have would be gained from these investors shall convince other potential investors that are closely scrutinizing the country’s situation to make up their minds.

Companies from different countries including China, India, Belgium, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are investing in Hawasa Industrial Park, whose construction is completed recently, according to reports from the Ethiopian Investment Commission.

These investors from these countries are set to commence their business in full swing as they regained their confidence amid the lifting and loosening of some restrictions in the state of emergency.

In similar fashion, despite the willingness of tourists to come to Ethiopia for a holiday visit in the midst of the state of emergency, their respective countries’ Insurance Policies would not allow them to travel to any country under a state of emergency, which entails to their decisions to cancelling their travel plans due to uncertainties of uninsured travelling, according to complaints from tour operators in the country. Nonetheless, there is a room to reignite tourism sector now, as the restrictions were lifted.

International businessmen, who basically prefer Addis Ababa as their new business capital, have been witnessed cancelling and postponing important meetings and forums fearing inconveniences vis-a-vis the declaration.

Yet, it is logical for one to argue now that they can feel free to do their meetings, forums, and business dealings in the city pursuing the handiness emanating from the lifted bans.

All in all, these factors aggregated are ensuring that the momentum for regular business is on the right truck. Ethiopia continues to be a preferable new destination for foreign investors, tourists and other including international organizations and diplomatic missions.

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