My Interview Questions with Dr. Arkebe Oqubay About the Ethiopian Industrial Policy
How has Ethiopia been able to resist the pressure to conform to the neo-liberal agenda to end SOEs, exit major economic decisions from the public and relegate them to the private sector like many developing countries have done. What tools do you use? How do you force your way and have it the way you want without a big backlash internationally?
The Ziway project for wine production with Castel, as an example, how are you able to restrict foreign experts to a minimum level without endangering your drive for skills transfer? Is anchor farming companies the type of investors you target in agriculture and subsequent value addition and if so, how do you do this? What can you tell Uganda in this area of attraction of anchor large farm groups that add value too?
Your telephone sector restrictions on liberalization keeps the cost of calls high and the sector is largely inefficient. Is it irreconcilable to liberalize but at the same time raise money for your projects given that you say you have kept the sector as a cash cow for railway lines construction? For example aren’t you able to open the sector but ‘force’ it to list on the stock exchange and then raise financing of your projects? Wouldn’t you fee many more jobs by doing this and help business costs go down?
How are you simultaneously raising funding for all these power and infrastructure projects including critical machine and skill inputs into key sectors yet you don’t have a cordial relationship with international finance institutions given that you don’t a fully open economy? You also don’t have large international development banks in the country and you work with your indigenous ones. How do they allow you to raise money without making it hard given that their (IMF and WB) reach and influence crosses into private financial markets?
Your leather sector is doing well. What key intervention did you make to ensure backward linkages are fixed well before the market demands. The Ethiopian cows are largely traditional with less reproductive capacity. How do you fulfill orders to keep the sectoral linkages strong?
Give me three key ingredients of the industrial policy you recommend for African countries given that Ethiopia had a low skill base and even less financial and other forms of capital than many but has managed to circumvent the hurdles in key sectors and grow.
You speak of many technical colleges you have built in Ethiopia and I understand quantity matters for starters but what is the key yardstick in outcomes and in performance standards you hold these colleges to? What quality standard do you get in factories out of these colleges? What kind of teaching material in instructors do you have in there?
Why are you so concerned about green manufacturing when Africa isn’t even in the top tables of polluters and still has 600m acres of Arable land not even touched? There is even no growth there in the use of machinery and equipment let alone in industry. Any growth of this sector in agriculture is out of more land converted and not technology use. Why don’t you let African economies grow first before they can worry about green manufacturing? Aren’t you pushing quality which will confuse us for now yet we don’t have jobs for millions of kids out of school all over Africa? Why don’t you let us catch up first and then we deal with this issue?
African countries tend to have the right policy prescription in place but are so weak on institutions and execution capabilities. How have you managed to deal with this enemy of poor execution in Ethiopia? How do you deal with corruption given you have kept SEOs?
What is the level of engagement you have between the public and private sector and the politicians’ demand for consumption expenditures yet you seem to wake up every morning breathing investment that take time to yield dividends for politicians? Do you have a forum in government and private sector that drives these policies and goals on a regular basis and if so how does it work? For example how are you able to use your government structures to reach out to three of the key apparel companies in the west? Do you have skills in government of people who know communication, incentives, business planning that help this kind of approach or you hire consultants for this work?
His response and answers will come in a video podcast soon