Ethiopia Revives an Age-old Question: Access to Sea

In PublicationsJuly 25, 20234 Minutes

Ethiopia Revives an Age-old Question: Access to Sea

By Staff Writer

Ethiopia, a vibrant nation with a population of over 120 million people, has a legitimate right to secure access to the sea. The history books establish that Assab port, situated in present-day Eritrea, historically belonged to Ethiopia. This vital infrastructure, given Ethiopia’s exploding population and its ever growing consumption- cannot continue to be tokenized for political expediency in the region. For centuries, Ethiopia has been an incredibly resilient and self-sustaining nation with a rich and diverse history. However, due to its recent landlocked geographic location, Ethiopia continues to face significant challenges in international trade, connectivity, and overall economic development. Access to the sea is not merely a desire for Ethiopia; it is a critical necessity for the nation’s growth and progress.

Before Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Assab port was an integral part of Ethiopia’s maritime infrastructure, serving as a vital gateway for Ethiopian trade and connecting the nation to the global economy. This historical significance, backed by numerous legitimate historical records, clearly shows Ethiopia’s legitimate claim to the Assab port. The subsequent denial of access to this port after Eritrea’s independence drastically impacted Ethiopia’s economy and hindered its ability to engage in international trade freely.

Furthermore, neglecting Ethiopia’s rightful access to the sea also violates international laws and principles of maritime rights.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) acknowledges landlocked states’ rights to access and utilize the closest seaports and provides legal frameworks to ensure such access. Ethiopia’s plea for its legitimate rights regarding Assab port aligns perfectly with UNCLOS provisions.

The socioeconomic implications of Ethiopia’s landlocked status are profound. Access to the sea would significantly reduce transport costs, boost export opportunities, attract foreign investment, and foster economic growth. This would not only benefit Ethiopia but also have a positive impact on the entire East African region by stimulating regional economic integration and development.

History has shown that when landlocked countries face unjust restrictions on sea access, it often leads to political tensions and the onset of conflict. Ethiopia, being a champion of resilience and persistence in the region, recognizes the importance of regional peace and collaboration. It is undeniable that Ethiopia gaining its rightful access to the sea, the region would witness enhanced stability, cooperation, and shared prosperity.

Ethiopia’s assertive stance regarding its legitimate right to gain access to the sea, particularly through Assab port, is well-founded and resolute. The historical evidence, international legal frameworks, and socioeconomic imperatives all align to solidify this justified claim. Recognizing Ethiopia’s justified calls for sea corridors has implications far beyond meeting domestic demands, but is also a crucial step towards regional peace, stronger economic integration, and a vibrant economic for the entire East African region. It is time for the international community to recognize Ethiopia’s rightful demand and act in accordance with justice and fairness.


Ethiopia's Green Legacy and Great Green Wall Initiative: Comprehensive Responses to the Environmental Challenges in Africa

In PublicationsJuly 24, 202312 Minutes

Ethiopia's Green Legacy and Great Green Wall Initiative: Comprehensive Responses to the Environmental Challenges in Africa

By Silabat Manaye

Silabat Manaye is international relations professional based in Addis Ababa. His research interests include water politics, geopolitics in the Horn of Africa, and War Journalism. He authored two books on Nile geopolitics. His MA thesis focused on Ethiopia’s Environmental Diplomacy in the Case of the Nile River.
The Impacts of Climate Change in Africa

According to the IPCC report (2023), the impacts of climate change on developing countries in
Africa, one of the most vulnerable continents, are due to a lack of financial, technical, and institutional capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change. Due to various anthropogenic activities, greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere at an alarming rate, which leads to extreme temperatures, flooding, loss of soil fertility, low agricultural production (both crops and livestock), biodiversity loss, the risk of water stress, and the prevalence of various diseases. It is predicted that the temperature on the African continent will rise by 2 to 6°C over the next 100 years. In terms of economics, Sub-Saharan Africa will lose a total of US$26 million by 2060 due to climate change. The increasing occurrence of flooding and drought is also another predicted problem for Africa.

Impacts of climate change on agricultural yields in Africa

A strong agriculture sector is necessary for food security in Africa. According to a recent study, climate change is responsible for reducing agricultural yields by 21 percent worldwide over the last 60 years. 7 In this period, the cumulative impact of climate change has been greatest in relatively warm regions such as Africa, responsible for a 33 percent yield decline. Like this study, most others focus on the important impact of nonliving systems (e.g., sea level rise, increased temperatures, greater frequency and severity of storms and droughts) but not living systems, including agricultural pests and plant diseases.

Food insecurity in Africa: A baseline

Climate change is compounding food insecurity on a continent already severely afflicted by hunger and malnutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN’s (UN FAO) most basic estimate of food insecurity is the “prevalence of undernourishment,” describing the proportion of a population that lacks enough dietary energy for a healthy, active life. The prevalence of undernourishment is estimated to be 19.1 percent, or 250.3 million people, across Africa; populations in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean are undernourished at less than half this rate (8.3 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively). 1 While the absolute number of undernourished people is lower in Africa (250.3 million) than in Asia (381.1 million) today, the UN estimates that Africa will be home to the highest prevalence and absolute number (25.7 percent, or 433.2 million) of undernourished people by 2030.

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy

Ethiopia, home to 120 million people, is one of the world’s most drought-prone countries. It has a high degree of vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards and natural disasters. Green Legacy, for a greener and cleaner Ethiopia, is a national go-green campaign endeavoring
to raise the public’s awareness about Ethiopia’s frightening environmental degradation and educate society on the importance of adapting green behavior. The Green legacy in Ethiopia encompasses more than just tree planting. The initiative entails broader environmental and sustainable development initiatives. The approach includes ecosystem restoration, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy promotion, and building a green economy.

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy also recognizes the importance of grassroots involvement, community participation, and ownership in environmental conservation efforts. It highlights the need for reforestation and restoration programs to be integrated into wider national development plans, ensuring long-term sustainability. The initiative in Ethiopia serves as an example of how environmental conservation and socioeconomic development can go hand in hand.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development Ethiopia, Dependence on sectors that are climate change sensitive, such as rain-fed agriculture, water, tourism, and forestry, as well as a high level of poverty, are the main factors that exacerbate Ethiopia’s vulnerability. Ethiopia’s policy response to climate change has progressively evolved since the ratification of the UNFCCC in 1994.

Ethiopia launched the National Adaptation Plan of Action in 2007 and the Ethiopian Programme of Adaptation on Climate Change and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in 2010. Ethiopia also endorsed a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy in 2011 with the objective of building a green and resilient economy. Over the years, Ethiopia has been implementing various programs within those policy frameworks. One among them, and by far the most consequential, has been the Green Legacy Initiative (GLI).

Rooted in a vision of building a green and climate-resilient Ethiopia, the Green Legacy Initiative was launched in June 2019.

The Green Legacy Initiative is a demonstration of Ethiopia’s long-term commitment to a multifaceted response to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation that encompasses agroforestry, forest sector development, greening and renewal of urban areas, and integrated water and soil resource management. This has made an immense contribution to Ethiopia’s efforts to meet its international commitments, such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

Green Legacy Initiative Expected Impact

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative has multiple targets, as it naturally touches on various targets of the 2030 Agenda. A contribution to food security is one of the objectives of the Initiative. In 2022 alone, more than 500 million seedlings were plants that have premium values in local and international markets, such as avocados, mangoes, apples, and papayas. This directly feeds into the current drive to become food self-sufficient by promoting sustainable agriculture, as envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal 2. The Initiative is a major flagship project that will help attain its adaptation goals as set in the National Adaptation Plan. Ethiopia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Frequent droughts, floods, and locust infestations are some of the manifestations of extreme climate events. Over the past four decades, the average annual temperature in Ethiopia is estimated to have risen by 0.37 degrees Celsius each decade. Directly linked to Goal 13 of the SDGs, this Initiative complements Ethiopia’s efforts to reduce its vulnerability. Moreover, forest conservation, reforestation, restoration of degraded land and soil, as well as the promotion of sustainable management of forests Ethiopia’s forest coverage has been declining for decades at an alarming rate.

The Initiative intends to reverse this, as this is unsustainable in a country where 85 percent of the population depends on rainfed agriculture. Overall, the innovative aspect of the Initiative lies in its potential to address multiple objectives. This entails enormous benefits in environmental protection, restoration of overexploited and degraded natural resources such as surface soil and water, halting desertification, and many other interrelated objectives. The enormity of the interlinkages will significantly contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Great Green Wall initiative

Similarly, The Great Green Wall initiative is a large-scale project aimed at combating desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. While it is true that the project involves tree planting as a significant component, it encompasses much more than that. The Great Green Wall initiative recognizes that desertification and land degradation in the Sahel region are complex problems that require multifaceted solutions. It seeks to address several interconnected issues, including soil erosion, food security, water scarcity, climate change, and the livelihoods of local communities. The project uses a combination of techniques beyond tree planting, such as sustainable land management practices, agroforestry, and the promotion of alternative livelihoods for local people.

By focusing solely on tree planting, the media overlooks the holistic approach of the Great Green Wall initiative. While the afforestation component is crucial to restoring and increasing vegetation cover, it is just one part of a comprehensive strategy. The initiative aims to create a mosaic of restored landscapes, including forests, grasslands, and agricultural areas, to enhance ecological resilience and promote sustainable land use.

The Great Green Wall initiative is not solely aimed at halting the southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. It also aims to provide various ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and the provision of water resources. Additionally, the project seeks to support the socio-economic development of local communities by creating employment opportunities, boosting agricultural productivity, and fostering sustainable economies.

In conclusion, both the Great Green Wall initiative and Ethiopia’s Green Legacy are comprehensive responses to the environmental challenges faced by their respective regions. While tree planting is a prominent aspect, reducing these efforts to a single activity undermines the breadth and complexity of the initiatives. The media should strive to provide a more nuanced analysis by highlighting the multifaceted approaches, broader goals, and potential long-term impacts these initiatives can have on ecosystems, communities, and sustainable development.


A Cost-Benefit Discussion on African Countries Joining BRICS

In PublicationsJuly 19, 20235 Minutes

A Cost-Benefit Discussion on African Countries Joining BRICS

By Staff Writer

In recent years, economic self-empowerment and self-sufficiency by way of global cooperation mechanisms have shaped the foreign policy and economic strategy of many nations; particularly that of developing nations. As African countries strive for sustained development and inclusive growth, the possibility of joining the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) promises great potential. In light of the growing chatter about the prospects of BRICS that has saturated global affairs, it is of utmost importance to ask “What is the cost-benefit analysis for African countries in joining BRICS?” This piece discusses the broader implications of this organization, with a broad discussion on the plausible outlook of the United States. and the broader ‘West’ in this seeming move.

Embracing New Horizons: Benefits of Joining BRICS

Enhanced economic cooperation:BRICS offers African countries the potential for increased economic cooperation through fostering cross-border trade, investment, and technology transfer. This partnership can foster sustainable industrial development, promote job creation, and foster innovation, ultimately contributing to Africa’s long-term economic growth.

Infrastructure development prospects: BRICS nations possess tremendous expertise and resources in infrastructure development. By joining BRICS, African countries can tap into this bank of knowledge and experience, which is critical for addressing a significant infrastructure deficit. Access to funding from the New Development Bank presents an exciting opportunity to accelerate infrastructure projects continent-wide.

Diversifying partnerships & reducing dependence: Historically, African countries have relied heavily on Western powers for aid, investment, and trade. By joining BRICS, they can diversify their partnerships and reduce over-reliance on a particular geopolitical bloc. This diversification not only mitigates economic risks but also strengthens Africa’s bargaining power.

Weighing the Risks of BRICS

Perceived dependence on non-western powers: One potential cost is the perception that African countries may become over-reliant on non-Western powers by aligning with BRICS.

Critics argue that such dependence might compromise the African voice and hinder progress in areas such as human rights and democracy. However, it is essential to recognize the agency and autonomy of African nations in forging their own path toward development.

A shift in trade patterns: Joining BRICS could lead to a redirection of trade patterns towards these emerging markets. While this may disrupt long-established Western trade relationships, it also opens new opportunities for African nations to diversify their markets, expand trade volumes, and reduce their reliance on single trade partners.

The potential risk of isolation: Some detractors suggest that joining BRICS might isolate African countries from Western institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, the formation of alternative financing mechanisms within BRICS, such as the New Development Bank, can address these concerns and provide African countries with access to much-needed capital for infrastructure and socio-economic development.

Pragmatic Concerns: Response of the US and the West

The United States and some Western powers have expressed concerns over African countries aligning with BRICS. This response can be seen as a manifestation of the historical geopolitical competition between the traditional Western powers and emerging economies. The US fears the dilution of its influence in Africa, given BRICS’ growing prominence. Consequently, they may adopt assertive measures to safeguard their interests, including reinforcing partnerships, revising aid policies, or promoting alternative economic alliances.

African countries joining BRICS offer immense potential for accelerated economic growth and sustainable development. The benefits of enhanced economic cooperation, infrastructure development, and diversified partnerships far outweigh the perceived costs. In the face of potential resistance from the US and Western powers, African nations must emphasize their sovereignty, maintain an assertive stance, and actively engage with the BRICS community to ensure shared prosperity. By strategically forging new alliances, Africa can unlock its true potential on the global stage.


China's Expanding Military Presence in Africa: A Strategic Pursuit

In PublicationsJuly 11, 20235 Minutes

China's Expanding Military Presence in Africa: A Strategic Pursuit

By Staff Writer

In recent years, China has made significant strides in establishing a robust and extensive military presence in Africa. Signaling its growing ambition for global prominence, China commenced this endeavor in 2017 with the construction of its naval base in Djibouti, East Africa’s strategic hub. As this military expansion unfolds, China seeks to build a second naval base in Nigeria, further solidifying its foothold on the African continent. For this reason, it is important to critically assess the motivations, implications, and potential ramifications of China’s increasing military presence in Africa to help shed light on the ever-evolving international political power dynamics.

China’s Naval Base in Djibouti:

China’s decision to establish a naval base in Djibouti highlights its drive to safeguard its ever-expanding economic interests and ensure uninterrupted lines of communication. Situated strategically at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, Djibouti offers China unparalleled access to the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, its proximity to volatile regions like the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula allows China to actively contribute to peacekeeping initiatives and counter-piracy efforts in the region.

The base in Djibouti symbolizes China’s transition from being a land-centric power to a formidable maritime force. By bolstering its naval presence in this strategically significant location, China aims to safeguard vital sea lanes upon which its burgeoning economy relies. Additionally, the base serves as a springboard for projecting soft power, boosting China’s diplomatic influence in the region, and enhancing its non-traditional security cooperation efforts, such as anti-terrorism and disaster relief operations.

Potential Second Naval Base in Nigeria:

With China’s military foothold in Djibouti firmly established, reports of a potential second naval base in Nigeria have gained considerable attention. Nigeria, being Africa’s largest economy and the most populous nation on the continent, presents immense opportunities for China. The establishment of a second naval base in Nigeria would not only enable China to extend its reach and influence along the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea but also bolster bilateral economic ties.

While the Nigerian government views this potential cooperation favorably, some observers express concerns about the long-term implications. Critics argue that an expanded Chinese military presence in Africa could fuel regional competition, exacerbate geopolitical tensions, and dilute Africa’s ability to assert its own interests. Furthermore, questions regarding the transparency of China’s intentions persist, leading to apprehensions about potential hidden military objectives behind ostensibly civilian-oriented projects.

Implications and Concerns:

China’s increasing military presence in Africa raises a host of broader implications with far-reaching consequences. As the United States, France, and other Western powers traditionally dominate African military engagements and continue to recalibrate their priorities, China’s entry has shifted the geopolitical dynamics in the region. This development has prompted existing powers to reassess their involvement, while African nations find themselves navigating a delicate balancing act in managing their relationships with multiple external actors.

Moreover, China’s military expansion raises questions about adherence to international human rights standards and non-interference principles. Some critics fear that China’s increasing military influence may undermine democratic governance, exacerbate conflicts, or inadvertently encourage autocratic regimes, impacting African states’ efforts toward good governance, human rights, and sustainable development.

China’s establishment of a naval base in Djibouti in 2017, followed by the potential construction of a second base in Nigeria, illustrates its ambitions to secure vital sea routes and ensure its expanding economic interests in Africa. While China portrays its military presence as a means to contribute to regional stability and enhance bilateral cooperation, concerns over potential hidden agendas and eroding regional autonomy persist. As African countries, both individually and as a block, navigate the shift in global geopolitical landscape, they must carefully evaluate the implications of China’s military presence on the continent while protecting their national interests, collective sovereignty, and safeguarding regional stability.


Examining the Detriments of Russia-Africa Relations and Africa's Approach to the Upcoming Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023

In PublicationsJuly 10, 20237 Minutes

Examining the Detriments of Russia-Africa Relations and Africa's Approach to the Upcoming Russia-Africa Summit in July 2023

By Staff Writer

As the Russia-Africa relations continue to evolve, it becomes crucial for African nations to objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks associated with this partnership. This article aims to shed light on the various reasons why Russia-Africa relations may not be as advantageous to Africa as perceived, and how Africa should approach the next Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for July 27-28, 2023.

The Limitations of Russia-Africa Relations:

1. Limited Diversification of African Economies: While Russia has shown interest in investing in African natural resources, there has been a dearth of diverse economic partnerships. Overreliance on the exploitation of Africa’s raw materials can undermine the continent’s long-term economic growth, hindering efforts to diversify its economies and promote sustainable development.

2. Unequal Trade Imbalance: Agreements and arrangements between Russia and African nations often result in an uneven trade balance, favoring Russian exports over African products. This imbalance reduces Africa’s economic gains and may perpetuate a cycle of economic dependency, limiting local industries from thriving and reaching their full potential.

3. Limited Technological Transfer: Although collaborations in sectors such as energy, defense, and infrastructure have taken place, the transfer of advanced technological know-how, research, and development remains limited. Without significant technology transfers, African nations may struggle to build independent technological capabilities and therefore restrict their ability to drive innovation and competitiveness in various sectors.

4. Political Influence and Geopolitical Considerations: The strategic interests of Russia may overshadow Africa’s individual national agendas in some instances. Such political influence can potentially hinder African nations’ autonomy in crafting policies that best meet their own developmental needs. African countries should strive for a balanced engagement that recognizes their own interests and avoids over-reliance on external powers.

There are several specific examples that can be cited to highlight the negative impact of Russia-Africa relations on African countries and their resources:

1. Exploitation of Natural Resources: Russia has engaged in resource extraction activities in African countries without adequate environmental regulations or sustainable practices. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russian mining companies have been accused of poor labor conditions, illegal mining, and environmental degradation.

2. Arms Sales and Conflict: Russia has been a major supplier of arms to African countries, including those involved in regional conflicts. These weapons often exacerbate existing conflicts and fuel violence, causing immense human suffering and hindering development efforts.

3. Debt Dependency: Russia has provided loans to several African countries, which has resulted in substantial debt burdens. For instance, Angola owes Russia billions of dollars in debt from arms purchases. These debts create economic dependencies, diverting resources away from developmental projects and social welfare programs.

4. Lack of Technology Transfer: Russia often lacks technology transfer agreements or investments in African countries, which limits the building of local capacities and skills. Instead, Russia tends to export finished products, leading to less value-added economic activities in Africa.

5. Centralized Power Structures: Russian investments and partnerships often strengthen authoritarian regimes in Africa, thereby exacerbating corruption, lack of transparency, and further entrenching power imbalances. This can have detrimental effects on governance, democracy, and human rights.

6. Limited Infrastructure Development: While Russia has invested in certain infrastructure projects in Africa, the focus has mainly been on extractive sectors rather than broader developmental infrastructure. This limited focus hinders sustainable development and diversification of African economies.

7. Lack of Technology and Knowledge Transfer: Russian involvement in African countries has not always prioritized knowledge transfer or technology sharing. This results in missed opportunities for African countries to develop local capabilities and benefit from technological advancements.

It is important to note that while these examples highlight negative impacts, Russia-Africa relations also present opportunities for both parties. However, it is crucial to ensure that such relationships are mutually beneficial, sustainable, and support the long-term development goals of African countries, rather than merely exploiting their resources.

Approaching the Next Russia-Africa Summit (July 27-28, 2023):

1. Strengthened Preparatory Research: African nations must conduct comprehensive research and analysis to identify strategically crucial areas for collaboration that will yield mutual benefits. This approach will allow for more informed decision-making, ensuring that African interests are prioritized during negotiations.

2. Promoting Trade Diversity: African countries should seek to negotiate fair trade agreements that enhance diversification of their exports and reduce dependence on a single partner. Encouraging Russian investments in value-addition industries across Africa can contribute to economic transformation and greater self-sufficiency.

3. Emphasizing Technological Transfers: The upcoming summit provides an opportunity for African nations to foster partnerships that prioritize technological transfers and capacity-building initiatives. This will enable Africa to acquire advanced expertise, empowering local industries and facilitating technology-driven advancements across different sectors.

4. Strengthening Regional Integration: Africa’s unity is crucial in engaging with external partners like Russia. Collaborating as regional blocs will increase negotiating power and enable African countries to secure more favorable economic, social, and political partnerships.

While Russia-Africa relations have the potential to bring about mutually beneficial collaborations, it is imperative for African nations to approach this partnership with careful consideration. By focusing on diversifying economies, promoting fair trade, prioritizing technology transfers, and strengthening regional integration, Africa can leverage the upcoming Russia-Africa Summit in 2023 to navigate these relations in a manner that will effectively drive sustainable development for the continent.