Ethiopia is the new flavor of the month for Africa watchers.
The East African nation led the pack of fastest-growing economies — not just in Africa, but in the world — in 2015. While many African nations are struggling to cope with plunging currencies and falling revenue from commodities, Ethiopia’s economy grew 8.7 percent last year and is set to expand 8.1 percent in 2016, according to International Monetary Fund estimates. Globally, only Papua New Guinea grew faster last year, at 12.3 percent.
Much of Ethiopia’s success is due to the dominance of the state in the economy. The nation exports very little compared to its African peers and capital controls mean the currency, the birr, has retained its value despite the global downturn.
“The fact that much of the spending is on capital projects, especially infrastructure, means that government spending has been the key driver of the boom,” said Getachew Teklemariam, an independent economist based in the capital, Addis Ababa. “It is unimaginable to think of Ethiopia as one of the fast-growing countries in the world without government spending.”
It’s that spending by state-owned companies such as the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Ethio Telecom and Ethiopia Electric Power that’s led to a 70 percent boost in capital investment in the past three fiscal years to 155.2 billion birr ($7.3 billion). The government is building everything from industrial parks to sugar factories and power lines.