EVERY so often, a speaker at a conference says something provocative or simply voices an opinion that sparks discussions long after the event. At African conferences, brusque comments by Nigerian officials used to dominate conversations.
Not anymore. Ethiopians have usurped the role. And there are good reasons to support the Ethiopians’ new assertiveness: they run one of the world’s fastest growing economies; they have done a good job in meeting the Millennium Development Goals; they are building what will soon be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam; their national airline dominates Africa’s skies; they have achieved an admirable level of political stability in one of the region’s roughest neighbourhoods, and their capital Addis Ababa, whose skyline is dotted with construction cranes, is the continent’s diplomatic capital, thanks to the presence of the AU’s headquarters.
In a hurry
“Ethiopia is in a hurry to develop,” said Eugene Owusu, who until recently was the head of the UN office in Ethiopia. “You might think it’s insane for any country to aspire to grow at such a fast rate. But it reflects the confidence the country has right now. It reflects the bold ambition and the political commitment of the leadership.”