- Ethiopia is having trouble with the EU due to its civil unrest situation
- EU-Ethiopia relations have opened doors for food security and health supports
- Ethiopia has become one of the primary beneficiaries of the EU’s Trust Fund for Africa
EU-Ethiopia relations must go forward. Africa has always forged relationships with the western world. Since 2002 Africa has maintained strong ties with the European Union (EU). In 2007 the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) was signed and laid down orientation for the European Union to partner with the region.
Africa has established healthy relations with the EU and consequently garnered a decent flow of direct investment and trade while allowing the EU to serve as a development donor at the same time (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung).
In that context, Ethiopia and the EU have maintained their relationship, which has extended towards offering support to development initiatives in the spheres of health, food security and infrastructure.
Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, and it has positioned itself to be one of the most attractive settings for industrial and aviation investment over the past decade. The EU has also brought Ethiopia to a migration partnership framework (2016-2017). Since Ethiopia is home to the largest refugee population in Africa, the partnership enables Ethiopia to support essential issues such as regional security, human rights, governance and migration (State Watch).
Over the past years, Ethiopia has become one of the primary beneficiaries of the EU Trust Fund for Africa.
According to information from European Commission, in total, the value of EU development assistance to Ethiopia has averaged an estimated 214 Euro ($225 million) per year.
However, when Ethiopia was dragged down through the most gruesome internal political turmoil – the Tigray War – relations between the Horn of Africa and the EU was at an all-time low.
The EU followed close on the heels of Ethiopia’s close development partner, the United States, and threatened sanctions on the Ethiopian government in a deliberate attempt to quench the conflict.
Ethiopia is home to more than 100 million people making it the region’s second-most populous country. According to the European Commission, Ethiopia’s economy has experienced an average of 10 per cent annual growth over the past decade.
The Commission found Ethiopia to be one of the fastest-growing economies globally. As a developing nation with its own challenges, Ethiopia strives to eradicate poverty and food insecurity and achieve low-middle income country status by 2025.
“Despite rapid growth, Ethiopia still faces multiple development challenges linked to the fact that the benefits of growth do not yet trickle down to the poorest people in the country”, the Commission argued, pointing out the strides Ethiopia has to make to achieve sustainable development.
The current political friction in Ethiopia has put the EU-Ethiopia relationship at stake. In March 2022, the Tigray War escalated to a position wherein the Ethiopian government had to declare an indefinite humanitarian truce to be able to deliver humanitarian aid to the Tigray region.
EU support for Ethiopia
As much of the development partnership between Ethiopia and the EU has brought about many great advances, humanitarian principles out-weight funding priorities. In this case, the Tigray war has taken the lives of more than 50,000, leaving more than 61,000 refugees and nine million in need of food.
In June 2021, the European Commission pointed out that, despite the deliberate need to prioritize funding for climate, education, and good governance in Ethiopia over the next seven years—it fears that an attempt is “unlikely” to occur until it sees improvement in Ethiopia’s Tigray region (Devex).
According to Devex, a global development reporter, some 40 per cent of funding for Ethiopia is planned for spending on climate change, sustainable energy, and green growth. Another 40 per cent is for human development, of which three-quarters will go to education and health and one-quarter to migration and forced displacement issues. Another 15 per cent is allocated to governance and peacebuilding, and five per cent will “support measures” such as studies and communication.
“Ethiopia has an envelope of $858 million for the 2014-2020 budgetary period, plus more than $421 million from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and money received through thematic programs. In total, the Commission committed $570 million through the prized modality of budget support to government coffers,” Devex noted.
The EU did not only block development funding in Ethiopia. In December 2020, it suspended more than $94 million in budgetary aid to pressure the nation to cease the Tigray conflict.
However, Ethiopia’s government made an important decision on December 21, 2021, by halting the counter-offensive of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces at the Tigray borders, giving new hope for international diplomacy and rekindling economic relations with the EU and the US at large.
Over time, EU-Ethiopia relations have featured relatively successful events. In 2016, with a total volume of more than 4.1 billion euros ($4.3 billion), the EU became the second trade partner for Ethiopia (European Union Business Forum). That year, Ethiopia had exported to the EU at least 26 per cent of its global export trade volume, while 12 percent of Ethiopia’s imports were from the EU.
Further, EU investment in Ethiopia from 1992-to 2014 stood at more than $2 billion. The EU has contributed its fair share in enhancing the labour market in Ethiopia by promoting the generating of more than 200,000 jobs through around 300 EU companies.
Despite the Tigray War tarnishing the excellent work done between the two parties, the EU has had a decent number of priorities that supported Ethiopia to move the development wheel faster and more seamlessly between the period of 2014 to 2020.
During that time, an amount of around $858 million was allocated. This includes supporting Ethiopia’s stability and peace via dialogue means and financial and technical support.
The EU prioritized supporting Ethiopia’s long-term inclusive economic development and prosperity with programmes that promote infrastructure, investments, industrialization, and quality employment.
Another vital priority on the table is supporting the Ethiopian people and the country’s social capital creation by improving the health system with a specific focus on gender.