Ethiopia is Africa’s next superpower but here are four boxes it needs to tick

Ethiopians whose patriotism is founded on some philosophy of Manifest Destiny cannot be dismissed when political scientists accept American exceptionalism with a straight face.

Of course, this is not the Manifest Destiny akin to what a lot of Americans have believed since the 19th century. That is also not to say we have conveniently forgotten that one time, Ethiopia tried to annex Eritrea.

But as the sole country in Africa, apart from Liberia, that was not colonized, it is understandable for Ethiopians to find some teleology in this uniqueness. A feeling of transcendent greatness does not need factual backing.

Ethiopia is a bundle of geographical contrasts. The highest point of the country, the northern Semien Mountains are about 4533 meters or 14872.05 feet high while the Danakil Depression is 125 meters or 410 feet below sea level.

The country does not have much in the way of minerals, boasting modest returns for copper, gold and platinum although the natural gas-rich region of Ogaden promises so much more. Ethiopia has varied vegetation types and much of the land is arable.

Ethiopia is a country of more than 70 ethnic groups with diverse linguistic and other cultural elements. The biggest group, the Oromo, accounts for about 40% of Ethiopians.

Sculpting a nation out of this critical mass has taken all the time since World War II. The difficulty of this task is not surprising but what is is that Ethiopia has in the past rather focused on befuddling irredentist warfare against Eritrea (according to a ruling in The Hague, Eritrea was the aggressor but Ethiopia seemed to have used the war as a patriotic rallying point to unite its people).

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his predecessors have had to contend with various degrees of ethnic insurgency in spite of the country running an essentially ethnic federal system of government. But Ahmed is hopeful and hope is a good ingredient when preparing for the future.

Ethiopia will need to have a united nation or risk implosion. This fact is even more fundamental beyond superpower ambitions.

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