It is remarkable how Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has sustained economic progress in Ethiopia after the sudden death of his predecessor in 2012
Moments after the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was re-elected as prime minister last October for a second term in an election the ruling coalition took all seats in parliament, President Mulatu Teshome said, promising economic growth of about 11 percent for the next five years – “We successfully completed the implementation of the growth and transformation plan…we will continue to deliver the sustainable, rapid, double-digit economic growth, which was registered in recent years.” AfricaWorld News, having looked at nominations across the world decided to award Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as our 2015 MAN OF THE YEAR.
In arriving at this decision, we looked at certain qualities that distinguished him as a global leader and the impact on the people of Ethiopia. But who is Hailemariam Desalegn?
In the Ethiopian tradition, the Prime Minister is known by his first name, Hailemariam meaning ‘the power of Saint Mary’. Hailemariam Desalegn, a Protestant, and the first to lead Ethiopia, where Orthodox traditions are the spiritual path of many Christians. It is also worthy to note that, in a country dominated by major ethnic groups, Hailemariam Desalegn hail from the minority Wolayta people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. The Ethiopian leader was born in 1965 in the Boloso Sore district of Ethiopia. In 1988, Hailemariam earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Addis Ababa University. He also studied for double master degrees in sanitation engineering and organizational leadership from Tampere University of Technology in Finland and Azusa Pacific University in the U.S respectively. After returning from Finland, Hailemariam joined the country’s Arba Minch Water Technology Institute and served 13 years in different positions, including as registrar, vice dean, and dean of the institute.
Just few years as member of the ruling party, Hailemariam Desalegn was first appointed as vice president of the country’s southern region and later a president of the region. He improved the southern region economically and as such ethnic stability was ensured. He came to limelight at the national political scene in 2006 and as adviser to Meles Zenawi, was appointed as the government’s chief whip in parliament. In 2010, he became Deputy Prime Minister to Meles, taking charge of Foreign Affairs.
INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ALLY
Despite the criticism of the ruling party within and outside Ethiopia since the time of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the progress recorded by the government of Hailemariam have been tremendous. Ethiopia, an ally of the West, is long considered a bulwark against volatility in the Horn of Africa. Its reputation as a key diplomatic player is strengthened due to its chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, mediating in the peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan on one hand and the warring parties in new South Sudan on another hand. Strategically, Ethiopia is key to the stability of the Horn of Africa as soldiers remain integral to the ongoing fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The country formally joined the AU peace-keeping force there in late January 2014.
Prime Minister Hailemariam has personally bolstered the peace process in the old and new Sudan since he came to power in 2012. In 2013, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn visited Sudan and South Sudan as part of the efforts to coordinate and facilitate face-to-face entente between the presidents of the two countries. The motive was to encourage the two countries to complete consultations on outstanding issues like the status of Abyei and the implementation of the Addis Ababa Agreement particularly on the details of the 14 miles Temporary Security Zone Arrangement. As IGAD chairperson, Hailemariam Desalegn and President Uhuru Kenyatta have led talks between former Vice President Riek Machar and the government of President Salva Kiir to sign a peace agreement over the South Sudan conflict.
It is important to inform that Ethiopia received the South-South Award 2015 for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who received the award at the South-South Award Gala Event, underlined Ethiopia’s commitment to the spirit of South-South Cooperation. “Ethiopia was inspired by the successful development experience of countries of the Global South and in the same spirit it was ready to share its experiences with others”, he said after receiving the honour for Africa’s oldest State.
The administration of Hailemariam Desalegn has continue to move Ethiopia ahead in other sectors apart from regional security and international diplomacy. He has embarked on bilateral and internal projects which has helped position Ethiopia at the pinnacle of direct foreign investment destination in Africa.
Prime minister Hailemariam led Ethiopia to partner Kenya in the ambitious USD24.5bn Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor – which includes a railway, highways, and an oil pipeline – which will provide his landlocked country and South Sudan with a new export pathway and reduce Kenya’s dependence on the heavily congested port of Mombasa.
Prime Minister Hailemariam has partnered Ethiopia with Djibouti to sign an agreement for a $1.55 billion fuel pipeline with developers Mining, Oil & Gas Services and Blackstone Group LP-backed Black Rhino Group.
Both countries which are in the Horn of Africa signed framework agreements in September 2015 for construction of the 550-kilometer (340-mile) line to transport diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from port access in Djibouti to central Ethiopia. The joint project construction is scheduled for completion in two years.
Ethiopia, whose 1984 famine triggered a major global fundraising effort, has experienced near-double-digit economic growth and huge infrastructure investment under his leadership, positioning it among the elite in Africa.
Although Ethiopia enjoys one of Africa’s highest economic growth rates, its economy is state driven. However, Government-owned companies are ambitious with projects like the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to be Africa’s largest hydropower project. The Ethio Telecom is working to unveil a 4G mobile phone network in Addis Ababa while the Sugar Corporation is building 10 new factories by the end of the GTP, with an eye to becoming a high-flyer in the global sugar trade.
The government had planned to join the World Trade Organisation in 2015 but may delay the decision as it would be expected to liberalise its telecoms and banking sectors.
The Hailemariam government welcomed its first sovereign credit ratings from global agencies in 2014 – a B1 from Moody’s and B ratings from both Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, which opened the door to international capital markets and foreign direct investment.
However, the foreign investment capital comes from China, which has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and grants to assist the government-owned corporations’ ambitious initiatives, as well as other capital intensive projects like roads, bridges and railways.
A remarkable achievement is in the rail transport system which currently consists of service between Dire Dawa and Djibouti on the meter-gauge. The railway continues to the capital city of Addis Ababa.
The Addis Ababa Light Rail which is the first in Sub-sahara Africa, is a 17-kilometre line running from the city centre to industrial areas in the south of the city and was opened on 20 September 2015. The second service began on 9 November 2015 for west-east line and total length of both lines is 32 kilometres, with 32 stations. The trains are expected to be able to reach maximum speeds of 70 km/h (43 mph).
The year 2015 was remarkable for Ethiopia and Prime Minister Hailemariam as a global and African leader of immeasurable value. Hence, AfricaWorld decided to etch his name on our hall of fame as 2015 MAN OF THE YEAR. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is married to Roman Tesfaye who was Born in Wolaita, Southern Ethiopia. Like her darling husband, Ms. Roman holds double master degrees in Economics and Leadership. She served as economic advisor of South Region’s administration and a former high level official in Ethiopian Women Affairs Ministry and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. She works for African Union (AU). Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his beautiful wife Roman Tesfaye have a daughter name Johanna Hailemariam.