The interview with Mr. Redwan Hussein is not an ordinary interview; it is a session of thorough discussions on political economy, with more focus on the Ethiopian modern renaissance.
I asked him several questions on very complicated issues, but he answered in a very simplified and understandable way.
For me, although I took nearly 45 minutes from his time; I am still thinking that I need at least four or five hours to elaborate on the same questions even without adding others.
For sure, the Ethiopian economic renaissance needs more media involvement, such as the land trip of the thirty Sudanese journalists to the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – GERD, but before that journalists and researchers need more understanding to the Ethiopian experience, I hope that this interview would give them good background to write more articles and to launch more media campaigns.
I started the interview by asking Mr. Redwan questions on his political career, he answered very kindly. These answers can bring a close picture to Mr. Redwan for African journalists and all people who are interested in studying one of the top Third World development experiences.
The interview is attached with information on GTP, ATA and other important resources, also there is a definition for the “Developmental State”, which very close to the Ethiopian experience.

Interview by Mekki Elmograbi

Q: Mr. Redwan, when did you start your career in politics? Would you like to give us a close picture for one of the youngest political leaders of Africa?

A: Thank you. I am now serving as the Minister of Government Communication Affairs. Actually I began my career as a politician some sixteen years ago, while I was serving as a teacher in one of secondary schools. Professionally I was a teacher; my first degree is in life sciences, biology, later on I did on social sciences, I got my MA in “Organizational Leadership”.

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My initial political involvement had to do with Ethiopian current political context in which every nationalities and peoples are given access and right to self-administration and to run their affairs. The society I belong ethnically is called Siltie in Southern region of Ethiopia and there was a party which was raising issues regarding that society. I served as a member of that party. There were some issues to be resolved, and then they were resolved. So, I joined the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – EPRDF, before thirteen years. Then I began serving as a member of the ruling party under the membership of one of the members of the front- EPRDF.  I also ran an office in that community which I belong to, as a social mobilization and participation coordinating office head in the newly established zonal administration. Later on promoted to head of an bureau of Education in the regional state of the Southern Ethiopia.

One of the nine states of the country is the Southern Ethiopia which is composed of fifty six nationalities of the eighty nationalities comprising Ethiopia. That means almost 70% of Ethiopian diversity belongs to Southern state. I served as head of education bureau in that region. Then I moved to Addis Ababa, to the capital city when Addis Ababa was decided to be run by the high officials of EPRDF to bring about rapid development through strong party leadership. I served there for a couple of years as head of  the office of EPRDF at the capital while also serving as advisor of the Mayor on public relations with the rank of deputy mayor. Lately I got promoted to serve as head of EPRDF Secretariat apart from serving as a Minister of Advising the Prime Minister on Social Affairs and Popular Participation.

Q: So you started as a teacher not in the capital, in the rural areas?
A: Yes, in the rural areas.
Q: what is the name of area?
A: The name of the city is Jinka in Southern Omo which borders Lake Turkana of Kenya.

Q: Mr. Redwan, the paradox in Ethiopia is that the federal system is non-ethnic at all, but the parties seem to be ethnic parties?

A: Not as such, if you look at Southern Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Movement – SEPDM, one of the members of the front EPRDF, as I said before – there are about 57 nationalities with different languages and cultures. They sum up to 18 million. But we don’t have 56 parties, only SEPDM. So peoples do have right to organize parties but not necessarily on Ethnic lines. It is multicultural rather.

Q: Again, 57 groups with different languages and cultures!?
A: Yes within the South, and all these people are represented by one movement, SEPDM which is one of the front members of EPRDF. Hence if you look at it critically, then it is not ethnical. The issue is that EPRDF believes that ethnic diversity, cultural diversity must be respected. It is the issue of respecting that diversity. Even if you look at Amhara National Democratic Movement – ANDM, it is not only Amhara, there are Oromos and there are Wags. It goes on.

It is the same for Tigray People’s Liberation Front – TPLF, it is not composed only of one ethnic line. There are kunamas, Erobs and others. The fact that you believe in respecting diversity does not mean that it should automatically be translated in to a party. A party is just a platform. Multicultural diversity is not ethnic because you can have ethnic groups in a nations, nationalities or peoples. Multi-cultural is a broader one. Diversity must be respected, that is also a source of mosaic. It is the very stand of EPRDF, “cultural existence is not viewed as mere ethnic line”.

Q: If we start questions on the economy of Ethiopia, tell us what are the strongest elements that make Ethiopian economic boom a reality?

A: It has to do with “Identifying what we have in abundance and what we face as scarcity”. What we have in abundance is firstly, the land, as compared to capital, and then secondly we have labor, because we have a big population; so creating a “proper mix” of land and labor with a good leadership and full commitment and the will of the peasants. The public; this is the stronger part of our economic boom because the largest share of our development and economy comes from agriculture and that agriculture is not mechanized farming, it is agriculture which is based on small holding farmers. It had been said by some international institutions that small holding farmers will not thrive for it is hard to increase their productivity. EPRDF however was very clear that this notion has led the country to nowhere. Opposition political parties used to believe the former notion.

EPRDF came with understanding that if every peasant is given a proper handling, proper training, proper advice and provided with a good technology and the best seeds and fertilizers and if he is assisted to have the best practice of agriculture and farming then productivity will increase.

When each product increases, that income goes directly to the people not to the pocket of few. If every society gains certain increment in its pocket, then it creates its purchasing power. And if you go to Agro-processing as a beginning of industrialization then you will have demand because people are fed well and they are able to buy goods. If you have an industry, then it can have market to sell without even exporting it. The other issue is, when productivity increases the abundance would create raw materials as an input for industries, which then would inject a certain momentum for industrialization. So the strongest parts are labor and the land and the will of the peasants and that is good communication with the populace and unflinching commitment of EPRDF. It is mix of these.

Q: Would you highlight the third issue of commitment?
A: The third issue, commitment is that EPRDF realized that the very survival of the country is based on understanding the dynamic of the nation.

Q: Do you mean public understanding or elites’ understanding?
A: The public understanding, however deep you understand at the elite’s level, if the populous would not subscribe to your ideas, then it would go nowhere. So, to create that understanding is prior. For instance, you come to “the understanding of the public”

It means, the fact that we are poor, the fact that we would be able to do away with the poverty if we strive hard, if we exert more efforts, we can get rid of poverty and become rich. That is rekindling hope, which takes determination to materialize.  Hence, you have to try to convince the populous that the nation is poor and then the public need to understand why that is so  and how to get rid of it and its role in doing so.  Again: why we are poor? Because we used to lack the proper understanding of what we have, and we failed to set up a mechanism to every society to let it participate in development endeavors. There comes lack of democracy.

There still is a notion in opposition political parties that we should have gone directly to the industry. That is so because the peasant had never been taken seriously in the creation of national wealth by the former governments and current political parties except   EPRDF. It believed that if the peasants which are more than 80% of the country are out of the game of production and consumption, no industrialization would be viable.  Whatever industry you have, no one is going to buy. Whatever industry you set up if the peasants’ population cannot produce the raw materials; this industry will not survive! So the power of development rests on the will and the endeavors of the populous. That is so because it is agro processing which is an entry of industrialization.

When the elite understand this, then it helps go deep to population. If the population subscribes, then you will have the mix of elites’ understanding and articulation of the issue. That would create consensus, public commitment and sustainable movement to fight poverty. If the elite are not there, the population might not articulate issues, but definitely, understands what is best for it.

Therefore, you must have a political party which is capable to articulate these issues. If a political party is detached from the public and objective reality, then however good ideas might be would bear no fruit.  EPRDF says that because by and large it is a peasant’s party. It is the peasant who should understand and decide if it has to exert efforts. The elite are there to articulate ideas, share them with the populous so that the populous subscribe. Cumulated efforts would create a surplus.  Unless each and every house hold gets something and strive for more, national endeavor would not yield big enough. If every population strives in an organized fashion, then the accumulated effort would be bigger than if we do it individually without synergy. There comes the commitment of the EPRDF to support organized forms of society even more.

Q: You are speaking about very high concepts in a deep way how could you reach – as a party – these concepts? Do you have collective mind or think tanks? What are the stages of the decision making process in your party that enabled you to reach to these conclusions?

A: The decisions and the information go in EPRDF both ways. If the party comes up at the higher level with best ideas, then it would go down to the grassroots level. First at the high level you discuss it well, everyone must understand it, unless everybody understands, it would not go to the second level down. We debate.  There is a culture of debate; there is a culture of intensified discussions.

When we are sure that everyone understood it at a certain level, then it goes down to the next level. At the end it comes back to the higher level as a feedback for further action. Again the idea would be more crystallized and down to earth the more it goes to the grass roots.

To the peasant, his or her immediate need is to get out of poverty. What does he need to do so? He has to improve his practice of farming, he has to exert more time, he needs seeds, and he needs best fertilizers and a good way of farming practice. These are the very solid issues for him. When you go down to the peasants’ level, this is the point: you have to produce more than your consumption. You have to produce more to the market, and then you will have a surplus to sell.  And will have more money. Then comes saving.  If you save it, you can add to the other capital assets to your family. The first thing is to gain money, to send your children to schools and provide them with healthy food, and to buy good clothes to your children. To cover your expenses of holidays that you have, to improve your house, and then household items and go on. In all such an Endeavour the peasant also needs to be respected, listened to.  There comes democracy embedded as an engine of development.

Some of the ideas to be dealt with at higher level are not relevant to the peasant.  So it must be tailored.  At high level it is understandable that we need to produce more raw materials to industry that complex issue should not go to base level. So what you have to tell the peasants is, how to produce more so that you feed enough, and they need to have excess product to sell so that they could buy things they need. Then he needs to understand what commodity to produce so that he would get even more money. Then comes market oriented production.

You have to know that at which level you can crystallize more, at which level you can add certain abstracts and concepts to others. Another important issue one shouldn’t miss is that when you go down to the peasants, they have marvelous ideas of wisdom that they learnt through experiences.  So we can also address these issues and then you can comprise them and you can use them as a form of a certain crystallized solutions. You can’t only teach the peasant, you also have to listen to learn.

Part 2

In an exclusive interview, Mr. Redwan Hussein the Ethiopian Minister of Government Communication Affairs, answered several questions on the Ethiopian economy.
Redwan explained the structure and the dynamics of the Ethiopian economy which is considered by the World Bank as one of the fastest growing in the world.  Redwan shed light on the elements of Ethiopian economic boom, “the proper mix is land and labor with a good leadership and unflinching commitment of the ruling party and the government. Most importantly the industriousness and the will of myriads of Ethiopian peasants” Redwan said.

He confirmed that the Ethiopian economy is still based on agriculture but during the second “Growth and Transformation Plan – GTP” starting from the mid of 2015, Ethiopia will enter the era where industry plays a pivotal role. “When we said agriculture led industrialization from the very inception,the target was industrialization,   it was out of a profound understanding and conviction that it would come only through success in agriculture”, he said.
Redwan said that though the economy is based on agriculture for now, we know that agriculture keeps on growing until only it finishes its capacity.  “Industry has to go faster than agriculture because it begins from behind if it has to take over somewhere” he added.
Answering a question on the stages of the decision making process in EPRDF, in the first part of the interview, Mr. Redwan Hussein said the decisions and the information move in EPRDF both ways, if the party comes up at the higher level with some kind of ideas concerning the populace, then it would go down to the grass root levels through a continuous discussion.  It comes back again to the higher leadership for further intervention and implementation and feedback.
You have to know at which level you would crystallize more to make it down to earth, at which level you can add certain abstract concepts. The other issue one has to bear in mind is that, when you go down to the peasants, they have marvelous ideas and wisdom that they learnt through experiences in their life time. So you need also to address these issues and then you can comprise and use as a palatable solution to be readily applied by the people. You cannot push your ideas forcefully down to the throats of the people.  You cannot coerce somebody to bring about betterment in his/her life.  If you could only induce conviction that you would pull together with people.
Q: Give us an example for the two ways of the process of decisions and information? Regarding the role of the peasants?
A: For instance, if you provide peasants with ideas about utilizing adequate amount and specific type of and fertilizers and ways of using their land, in a view to be applied across villages, you must make sure the peasants are convinced about what you are talking.  You have to know that your suggestion is applicable to their specific area without improvisation.  Because in certain areas the soil is acidic and in others the soil is alkaline. Some issues may need to be adjusted because when it goes to the peasant, they will come up with their version of ideas.
You must not think that the peasants are ignorant and they should accept what comes to them from scientific laboratories.  They have their own ideas and experiences that they can share. The party EPRDF conducts series of forums of discussions before a plan is executed. More lessons could be taken from peasants too. Hence it is only after consensus is reached that actual mobilization happens. We follow the same participatory discussion in the course of implementation. Later on the final gathering regarding the completion of a task goes on to take lessons for further engagement. Finally report goes back to the successive leadership ladder for further planning; and it goes on.
Q: To promote for these concepts, is it the responsibility of the party or the responsibility of government?
A: Both. When you run things, you have to differentiate between the things you act as a party member or leader and other things that you act as a government official. Some of us are both party leaders and also government officials. When they act as government officials that means they are leaders for everybody because the government serves every society even the opposition.
When they act as party members or leaders, their responsibility is to communicate and convince their party members.  The party communicates with and mobilizes the community through its members who are supposed to be role models or examples.  Party members must be exemplary, and they must prove that they are better performers. We believe that EPRDF has to lead by example.  For instance, if you want to lead teachers you need to have best teachers in schools who are looked up by their peers and students for their manner and performance.  That must be true in every walks of life. Unless our member becomes exemplary, then the party will not lead the society well.
The party is behind the government. It is a party that is elected. It is a party idea and policies the public voted for. But again the responsibility of the party and the government should not be messed up or conflated. We take at most care to avoid the possibility of over lapping.
Q: It sounds that Ethiopia is agricultural based-economy, no mentioning of industry?
A: As I rightly stated  earlier on, agricultural-led industrialization means marching towards industrialization through maximum use of the potentials of agriculture both in terms of employment, equitable  wealth and income creation , surplus for industry and enormous demand creation for industrial goods which all would serve to spur industrialization. Industrialization will come only through success in agriculture.
Q:Why?
A: Because there is scarcity of capital, we do not have the necessary capital. Secondly the majority of our populations are peasants, when you are talking about the benefit of the populace; actually, you are talking about the peasants because they constitute more than eighty percent of Ethiopians. Unless you make sure that every peasant or the majority are beneficiary, whatever benefit you talk, then you are not talking about the benefits Ethiopians.
If you talk about industrialization, the easier thing is to go through agro-possessing.  The imperative is not to begin with capital intensive but with labor intensive! Why? Because what we have in abundance is labor, not capital. One could not eye other than agriculture where you have agrarian society.
Agriculture has to be developed from that of low, medium and then to high productivity. It results in income generation for the populace. That creates demand for industrial materials. It also generates raw materials. Both cases spur industrialization particularly light industry and insure its sustainability.
According to the Growth and Transformation Plan – GTP, we have to lay a foundation of industrialization, the first GTP completes at the half of the next year of the European calendar 2015. The second GTP, then kicks off and further enhances the process. The industry would be seen taking up the dynamics of the economy. Attracting FDI is crucial. Enhancing domestic industrial capacity is more so. We have to exercise more in copying and adopting technology created and used by others. Then we can create new brands, new technologies different industries. For the nation could not only depend on FDI, we support comprehensively the development of small and micro enterprises both in the urban and rural setting.
Furthermore, if you have to count on your populace to play a role  in  industrialization both in terms of employability, raw material production and consumption, then you have go for education and technical and vocational training.  Citizens should be able to play a role in technology capacity accumulation. Small and micro enterprises must be at the centre of it. That is where enormous innovation comes from.  To make the long story short, that is why we begin with agriculture and small and micro enterprises. In so doing, we would make the economy equitable and the democratization stable because it benefits the populace.  When we render incentives, we must make sure that it is such an investment which brings what we lack and utilizes what we have in abundance. It should be one which brings capital and technology which we have in dearth.
Q: These fantastic ideas started from the time of liberation, or appeared after you liberated Ethiopia from the Derg regime?
A: The focus on human capital, and democratization  was there from the very beginning in the party but the comprehensive idea of the developmental state came out  starkly  during the split of EPRDF after the first decade of democratizing the nation. As I said Ethiopia learnt from others like the Korean and Taiwanese with regards to development. The democracy is more of our experience. We learnt from other democracies though. Whatever we learnt, we had to   domesticate it to fit to our context.
Q: What about the developmental state? Can you give us a definition for it in the Ethiopian context?
A: The developmental state is state which takes the issue of development as a fundamental issue, a death or life issue. The developmental state must be obsessed with development. Every option that it takes must be weighed against its contribution to development.
Where there is nothing mature in a country, bigger responsibility rests on the shoulders of the government including nurturing the private sector. Government has to intervene to redress market failures. When you have no infrastructure, when you have infant private sector, you won’t have competitive economy. Market cannot create it. Hence government must be there to shoulder to make it happen.
But again for a developmental state to function effectively the government’s intervention must be selected. Intervention is not interference. Like for instance if there is private sector which can venture out effectively in a certain sector, the government has to step out, give way to the private sector. The state would focus only on facilitating, for such a private sector to run. But there are areas that private sectors cannot venture out. Big industries (at the beginning at least), infrastructure development, equitable education and health for every society, private sector cannot do that.
The second feature is that a developmental state must not be in the pocket of a private sector. It should not be manipulated by the private sector. It must render a comprehensive assistance to the private sector but should maintain its independence. A developmental state should also have very effective civil service. It must also make sure that corruption is always on the check.  The fifth feature is that it should make sure that a consensus is gradually built by the society regarding the endeavors of the state and the developmental path the nation is aboard.  We are toiling to see that these are happening. But in our case being developmental is not enough. It should also be democratic. It won’t be viable without democracy. The country had been at the brink of total collapse, because of lack of democracy, lack of willingness to embrace multicultural diversity in the pretext of one strong nation.  That arrogance actually was about to result in its demise. We got to redress such a problem first if we are to stand as a nation before dealing with which fashion to pursue regarding the economic aspect.
Q: Which is better in education private ones or government?
A: Private schools cannot make sure every Ethiopian has access to education. Private schools would not go to the remote areas. They are only in the cities. Ethiopians are not only city dwellers. Private schools are for the haves; not for the have not’s. Therefore it is the government’s onus to create access for every citizen. As a matter of fact you won’t even have a good private school while the nation is wallowing in the quagmire of poverty. Good private schools also emerge as a nation keeps on developing. It has to do with development.

Q: But you have private schools in Ethiopia?
A: Yes, to allow a space for private schools does not mean that they serve everyone. Education could not be seen in such a way that every Ethiopian can get education through private sector provision. Those who can afford can go to the private schools, but there are millions who cannot. And the recourse is public provision.
Q: It is the time of Integration and Regional Economic Blocks, and International alliances, but Ethiopia sometimes is absent, or it is not a strong player regionally or among the African blocks, why?
A: When it comes to the regional or continental agendas, Ethiopia had been and still is at the first front. Also, when it comes to regional stability, continental stability, and defending interest of our region or our continent, Ethiopia always have been and is at the frontlines   beginning from the time when every nation was under white colonization. It is even becoming more proactive with the help of other African friends. Take climate and global warming, be it defending our brothers from race hunting of ICC and name it.
When it comes to economic aspects, Ethiopia always believes that it cannot grow alone. It is in light of this notion that, we are pushing hard to integrate with our neighboring countries. Unless you establish real integration with your neighbors, you cannot make it alone.
We are striving to be inter-connected with Sudan, through roads, power, trade and other issues. We are doing so with Djibouti through railways, roads, power and also other issues.  With Kenya and South Sudan in the same vein. Furthermore, there is IGAD, COMESA and we are also toiling to do so through AU for a broader integration both politically and in the area of economy.  Ethiopia is taking a step to be inter-connected with its neighbors. Boarder free trade issue I would say, also has been mulled over and talking has began with neighboring nations.
Q: The relation between Ethiopia and the World Bank is controversial?
A: There are multifaceted areas where we pull together. Where we differ, we navigate our own sovereign ways. There is no much stumbling block. There are areas we do not subscribe. There are also those we accept.  In those areas we agree, we work with World Bank and International Monetary Fund.  That doesn’t hinder us from progressing.
Q: People of Sudan and Ethiopia are still waiting for the free trade zones and for ambitious integration achievements?
A: I think that is also being dealt with. In the last ministerial forum held in Khartoum between Ethiopia and Sudan several issues were discussed and agreed upon.  Apart from that, Ministers from both sides agreed upon a certain major framework on the border areas. The two countries are also about to start bus transportation between Khartoum and Addis Ababa, so they can establish public to public integration. I would say it will be commenced soon.
Q: What is the role of CAPP, the Council of African Political Parties?
A: The role of CAPP has to do with sharing experiences.  For example –   The issue of domestication of democracy in our African context is what it has envisaged. To achieve this goal, there must be a continuous dialogue and experience sharing process to help African political parties articulate their agenda. They do not have to succumb for every subscription which comes from other continents. If we fail in a certain part of Africa we must learn from that failure lest we would repeat elsewhere.  We have to learn from each other’s success too. We should not be told by somebody from Europe. We should frankly discuss and criticize each other. We should be ready to learn from ourselves. We can help ourselves and enhance African unity. That is the plank of the role of CAPP. That is what it takes for Africa to stand firm on the ground, I would say.

Sudanvisiondaily

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BOX

GTP:
The Growth and Transformation Plan – GTP, is a national five-year plan created by the Ethiopian Government to improve the country’s economy by achieving a projected gross domestic product GDP growth of 11-15% per year from 2010 to 2015.
The objectives of GTP are To:
* Enhance productivity and production of smallholder farmers and pastoralists
* Strengthen marketing systems
* Improve participation and engagement of the private sector
* Expand the amount of land under irrigation
* Reduce the number of chronically food-insecure households

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BOX

ATA:
The Agricultural Transformation Agency’s programs are designed to help all partners meet the targets. The Agency will measure its contribution to the effort through the metrics established in the GTP as well as in other strategies such as the CAADP Compact and the corresponding Policy and Investment Framework – PIF.
The economy of Ethiopia:
The economy of Ethiopia is largely based on agriculture, which accounts for 46.6% of the gross domestic product –GDP, and 85% of total employment.
Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and is Africa’s second most populous country.
Agriculture is the country’s most promising resource. A potential exists for self-sufficiency in grains and for export development in livestock, grains, vegetables, and fruits.
The Developmental State:
Developmental state, or hard state, is a term used by international political economy scholars to refer to the phenomenon of state-led macroeconomic planning in East Asia in the late twentieth century. In this model of capitalism (sometimes referred to as state development capitalism), the state has more independent, or autonomous, political power, as well as more control over the economy. A developmental state is characterized by having strong state intervention, as well as extensive regulation and planning.
The first person to seriously conceptualize the developmental state was Chalmers Johnson. Johnson defined the developmental state as a state that is focused on economic development and takes necessary policy measures to accomplish that objective.
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