Posted on :Thursday , 2nd February 2017
Nowhere shows the profound way that Britain says it is looking to change and sharpen its approach to international development and aid for the poorest countries in the world than Ethiopia.
This is a country synonymous with food instability, drought and inevitably malnutrition and famine where tens of millions have been dependent on subsistence farming.
Very few will ever forget the worldwide humanitarian efforts spearheaded by the BandAid movement to help relieve the famine of 1984-5.
But Ethiopia is dramatically changing. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world which has seen a rapidly industrialisation programme grow at constant rate of around 11% over the past decade.
By any yardstick, that is an economic miracle.
The UK wants the aid and development money it gives to countries like Ethiopia to focus on trade, jobs, investment and skills and not just the “traditional” aid programmes of handouts to alleviate immediate crises.
Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel spoke to ITV News on a trip to the vast new industrial park in the town of Hawasa, south of the capital Addis Ababa.
In a modern facility with state of the art technology and using sustainable, green energy programmes high quality garments and clothes are being made for the US and UK markets by international investors from as afar afield as the UK, Sri Lanka, United States, France and China.
Priti Patel was adamant that this new focus for UK aid was not simply about moving away from traditional humanitarian aid, saying that the UK has a strong commitment to life-saving emergency aid and would never shy away from that.
But she said that UK was clearly focused on helping countries move away from aid-dependency towards becoming modern middle-income trading nations which is the where the Ethiopian economy is heading within the next nine years.
Creating a job, she said, was the best way to alleviate poverty.
But she stressed that spending aid and development money on helping countries create factories where international investors would create jobs was fundamentally in Britain’s interest.
She pointed to the staggering population growth in Africa.
According to international research figures, such is the rate of Africa’s population expansion that by 2050 a mind-boggling 18 million young Africans will enter the workforce every year.
Think about that.
That means that 80,000 jobs have to be created every single day on the continent.
Priti Patel said that if countries like Ethiopia could not get the help to give its young population a job and some hope then millions of them would join the migration routes towards Europe and beyond.
She also stressed that helping countries like Ethiopia “get on their feet” economically and industrialise was important to Britain in the “post-Brexit” world.
“These are the kinds of countries we will need to trade with” she said.