Elections 2021 Insights

EIEP Podcast: Time for some fresh thinking in Ethiopia’s Afar region

(To listen via your favorite podcast player, click the ‘share’ button in the bottom right-hand corner)

In this episode of our EIEP podcast series, Ethiopia Insight Election Project’s Tobias Hagmann asks Dawud Mohammed, a lecturer at Samara University and independent researcher based in Afar region, to reflect on issues he raised in the EIEP’s ‘Abiy’s Prosperity yields few dividends for Ethiopia’s Afar’.

Tendaho Sugar Factory in Aysaita town, by Dawud Mohammed, March 28, 2021

[powerpress url=”https://www.buzzsprout.com/1807908/8967005-eiep-afar-interview-with-dawud-mohammed.mp3″]

Query or correction? Email us

Follow Ethiopia Insight
Ethiopia Insight Election Project Podcasts are authors’ reflections on their in-depth reported pieces from across Ethiopia that analyze issues related to this year’s polls.

Main photo: The Semera Industrial Park being inaugurated in the presence of senior higher officials, including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed; 16 May 2021; Industrial Parks Development Corporation.

Join our Telegram channel

Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Cite Ethiopia Insight and link to this page if republished.

We need your support to analyze news from across Ethiopia
Please help fund Ethiopia Insight’s coverage
Become a patron at Patreon!

About the author

Ethiopia Insight


  • Thank you Dawud and EI for this fascinating podcast and article on a little known part of Ethiopia. I am particularly interested in the failure of Tendaho sugar project as it comes as no surprise.

    As I have commented elsewhere on EI (“Omo investors won’t scrub away Kuruz’s sugary stain” by Benedikt Kamski – August 2019) the development model adopted along the Awash Valley beginning in the 1950s with large-scale monocultures – sugar and cotton – is one of the tragedies to befall the Afar people. All along the once rich and fertile valley, including the Aussa oasis, are the remains of failed or underproductive ‘development projects’ that didn’t take into account the context, as Dawud points out.

    This model is based on the linear-thinking of the scientific and industrial revolutions. It is cause and effect thinking, one-size-fits-all thinking, without considering the context and externalities, or ‘hidden costs’. You build a dam to irrigate sugar cane which is processed in a factory and the sugar exported to bring in foreign currency. Seems relatively simple. The ‘experts’ who design such projects completely ignore the ecological, biological, social and cultural complexities surrounding such interventions. This is why they fail. I should know as I used to be one of those ‘experts’, though for different cash crops.

    Tendaho took linear thinking to a mega scale in what is one of the most challenging, hostile and unpredictable environments on the planet – with mega hidden costs it was doomed to fail. It is hard to see how the new emphasis on growing wheat in the Aussa oasis wheat will be more successful.

    What happens next on the Awash is the big question the prime minister and his new generation of ‘experts’ should be asking. The answer lies in a systemic, or holistic, approach to development. The river must be developed in the context of the whole Awash Basin on which it relies for a sustainable water supply.

    The good news is that in 2018 the previous administration initiated a project titled “Integrated Water Resources Management as a System Approach to Water Security: Evidence from the Awash River Basin of Ethiopia”. This should be studied and promoted not only for the Awash but all of Ethiopia’s 12 major river basins. I hope the prime minister’s ‘experts’ take time to read this before making other plans based on linear thinking.

  • Great podcast. The root problem is lack of regional control of the economic and social policies needed for a community. From every region, what is now has become clear is that 30 years of ethnic federalism has not benefited nearly all the ethnic federal enclosures (killels) proportionally. The TPLF controlled, dominated and stole every resources of the country. TPLF put the country in unprecedented debt but does not have any evidence to show what Ethiopians got in return. Sure cosmetic projects and infrastructures were done here and there, the majority of which were haphazard, of the lowest quality and questionable importance relative to the community. The ethnic federalism was a facade to loot and concentrate resources in TPLFs hand. The Somali region comprises of some 16 million people spanning an area of 107,000 square miles. In 30 years of EPRDF,namely TPLF domination it got practically no roads development, no school expansions, no health facilities or other infrastructure development, while Tigray, a tiny region no more than 20,000 square miles ( even with annexation of stolen land from Northern Gonder) and a small population of less than 6million ( roughly 1/3 the population of Somali region) sucked up the lion share of the federal budget. Even worse, while TPLF enjoyed 30 years of hegemony in practically every sector of the economy, nearly 2 millions of our Tigrean brothers and sisters have lived on food safety net subsidies, for 30 years, THIRTY YEARS!!!!

    1) conduct a true population census
    2) redraft constitution to be a regional not ethnic federal system
    3) break up the ethnic enclosures or killels into their former provincial or similar boundaries
    4)establish a constitution based on the rights of an individual as a citizen not an ethnic group
    5) the purpose of government is to establish the safety and peace of citizens and except for massive infrastructure projects, the government should butt out of construction, manufacturing etc and leave this to the private sector.
    6)based on the election improvements, though modest, made this year, build a very competitive multi party election contests.

    1) taxation with representation demands that a true census is fundamental to proportional representation. This means that regardless of one’s ethnicity, a single Ethiopian individual must have proportional representation regardless of ethnicity and place of residence. Out of the 547 house of representative seats, Tigray’s proportion should be about 30 or less not 38. These types of chicanery can be avoided by moving away from ethnic based census and established on individual citizen count
    and should be left to statisticians not politicians.

    2) with truly competitive races, in the future the dominance of one party should not exceed more than 55% or so. Instead of 110 parties, next time around there should be a coalition of no more than three or max four parties competing with one another.

    3) might need to run the House of Representatives election more often than 5 years, perhaps every three years. Like they say, politicians and diapers need to be changed so often to ensure accountability.

    4) must demand a merit based appointment not ethnic based allotment and differentiate between technical and political positions.

    The nation has enormous challenges, difficulties and also opportunities, these can be solved and realized by executing data driven solutions by able technocratic force accountable both at the regional and federal level.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.