Ethiopia can move from its current ‘low human development’ designation to ‘medium human development’ ranking by the year 2025, if the country is able to sustain the current growth rate. This is according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) flagship National Human Development Report (NHDR) for Ethiopia that was released on Wednesday, April 29 at the UNECA.
“The report’s theme ‘Accelerating inclusive growth for sustainable human development in Ethiopia’ is indeed timely and relevant for our country as we strengthen our efforts to eradicate poverty and enhance human development,” said President Mulatu Teshome in his key note speech.
The president also stated that he appreciated the fact that the report is “produced through independent analysis as this will greatly enrich our perspective on the country’s socio-economic performance and the status of human development over the past decade.” He went on with the remarks, “the report will also help us explore the regional variations in human development dimensions of life expectancy, education and health outcomes.”
Currently, Ethiopia is ranked at 173 out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index. The index calculates Human Development not only at country level, but also for the different regions. For example, data shows that the Tigray region’s HDI in 2004/5 was 0.397. This has grown to 0.524 during the period 2012/13.
Gambella, an emerging regional state, recorded a human development indices of 0.387 and 0.472, respectively for the same period. Other regions with HDI values above the national average include Tigray, Addis Ababa, Gambella, Harari and Dire Dawa.
According to President Mulatu, Ethiopia recognizes that addressing poverty, deepening democracy, and ensuring good governance are critical issues for the survival of the nation.
“I assure you that the government is proactively taking appropriate measures to address these challenges. In this regard, our efforts have been directed at fighting poverty, strengthening the rule of law, accelerating devolution of power to regional states and lower level administrations, fighting corruption, and ensuring social and gender equality,” he stated.
Ethiopia is currently on its final year of implementation of the first Growth and Transformation Plan which aims to achieve a sustainable growth, expand quality education and health services, build a democratic state, and ensure a stable macroeconomic environment.
Besides achieving a double digit economic growth rate for the past 11 consecutive years, Ethiopia has also seen a significant increase in national income.
“We have witnessed a significant increase in national income from birr 247 billion in 2005 to birr 627 billion in 2014. As a result, our per capita GDP has increased nearly fourfold from about USD 171 in 2005 to USD 632 in 2014. This has helped to markedly reduce the incidence of poverty from 38.7 percent in 2005 to 29.6 percent in 2011, and this figure is estimated to further decline to about 24.2 percent in 2014. While we are happy with the progress in tackling the level and severity of poverty, we fully recognize that we still have a long road ahead of us,” President Mulatu said.
According to Eugene Owusu, UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative, Ethiopia is tackling some very complex development issues and there are bound to be constructive differences over the issue of which option is best to move forward.
“We produced this report as part of our contribution to that ongoing dialogue on how best to drive inclusive growth and enhance human development in the years ahead. Given the central role national human development reports can have, and do play, in fostering discourse of important development topics, our intention on going forward is to produce national human development reports on Ethiopia every two years,” Owusu said.
Stepping back from the praise, the report also highlights on some major developmental challenges Ethiopia is facing. For example, it states that the gains from the country’s growth and development are not being evenly distributed among all groups and all regions of the country.
The report also shows that some 2.5 million Ethiopians have been lifted out of poverty between 2005 and 2010/11. But this growth is tempered by the fact that although the incidence of poverty is declining, the severity of poverty is increasing. Besides that, the fact remains that some 25 million Ethiopians are living below the poverty line.
The report also underlines the need for building fortified linkages between agriculture and manufacturing sectors, promoting private sector support and participation in development initiatives working closely hand-in-hand with government to create employment for youth and economic opportunities.