In 2016, the economy experienced food shortages. But Ethiopians did not starve, while GDP — hold your breath — grew 8.2 per cent.

By Neeraj Kaushal (Economic Times) |

In my youth, parents chastened their children if they wasted food by reminding them that millions starved in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was the country stricken with famines. According to the World Peace Foundation, between 1870 and 1980, 115 million starved to death in Ethiopia.

Guess what? In 2017, Ethiopia will be the fastest-growing economy, projects the World Bank. And this is not just a blip. Between 2003-04 and 2014-15, the Ethiopian GDP increased 10.8 per cent annually, double the African average. What transformed Ethiopia from a famine-stricken country to the world’s fastest economy? A peace dividend, improved infrastructure, a switch to market economy, globalization, a few sound policies (including better management of food) and a little bit of luck.

A Longer Food Pipe

Vagaries of weather continue to disrupt agriculture, causing occasional food shortages. But the era of starvation deaths has ended. Improved food management, better functioning markets and globalization have all helped. Last year, Ethiopia experienced the worst drought since the one in 1984, which killed at least 600,000 and shrank the Ethiopian economy by 14 per cent.

In 2016, the economy experienced food shortages. But Ethiopians did not starve, while GDP — hold your breath — grew 8.2 per cent. What was different this time? Civil war and ethnic war with Eritrea are distant memories. In the 1984 drought, when it was embroiled in a civil war, the Marxist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam blocked trade and even bombed markets to ensure that rebel-controlled areas did not receive food supplies, and redirected food aid to his soldiers.

Continue reading this story at Economic Times (blog)
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