Ethiopia’s economy has held up despite civil unrest, with the government espousing a China-inspired state-led approach to economy management.

By Justina Crabtree (CNBC) |

East African economic powerhouse Ethiopia swore in a new prime minister this week, whose pledge to smooth out ethnic ruptures in the country could mean that unrest and violence no longer disrupt its economic development.

Abiy Ahmed took his oath of office on Monday, declaring that “Today is a historic day. We bear witness to a peaceful transfer of power.”

Abiy’s leadership is noteworthy as he is an ethnic Oromo, a group which hails from Ethiopia’s Oromia region — of which the capital is also national capital Addis Ababa. Despite being Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, comprising roughly one third of the country’s 100 million population, Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister.

“Our identity is interwoven and intermingled. We are born Ethiopians and we die as Ethiopians,” Abiy said at his swearing in, as reported by Reuters.

Abiy’s rhetoric of national unity is pertinent given that he was elected into power by lawmakers in the midst of a state of emergency, imposed following anti-government protests which led to the resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn. Oromos accuse the government of marginalization.

Abiye was a lieutenant colonel in Ethiopia’s military and also holds a doctorate in peace-keeping from Addis Ababa University.

Ethnic tension impacting business

But despite the festering civil unrest in recent years, Ethiopia’s economic fundamentals have remained strong.

Ethiopia is among the poorest countries in the world, and also suffers from recurring famine. But, the country has sustained gross domestic product growth (GDP) of above 8 percent since 2004, with this figure hitting double digits as recently as 2015, according to International Monetary Fund data.

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