I’m in Ethiopia, scouting locations for an upcoming public television special about hunger. And traveling here, I feel like I’m witnessing a country that has been famously poor evolving into a developed nation.
In order to develop, Ethiopia wants investment, not charity. Ethiopia earns little from exports — its biggest export, coffee, only generates about $700 million a year. But it has a huge untapped natural resource of young people who are ready to work for wages that are much lower than those in the developed world. With more labor than physical resources, big corporations use a poor country like Ethiopia as a base to “re-export”— a place to import a product (like cloth), process it affordably, and re-export it (as clothing).
Globally, development seems to come in waves: China…India…and now, perhaps, sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia’s leaders wouldn’t mind following “the China model” of development, which depends on cheap labor, as a way to compete with countries like China and India, where wages have risen.
Here’s a quick peek at Ethiopia’s massive Hawassa Industrial Park — and what could be the future of an Africa that is more profitably integrated into the global economy.