Problems and Possibilities of Democratic Developmentalism in Ethiopia


Makoto Nishi


Associate Professor

Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Hiroshima University

My research focuses on how illness experiences of people in different parts of the world are shaped by socio-cultural factors including gender, power, and violence.


Robust civic movements are essential for addressing the health needs of “neglected” groups of people, even when the government is committed to the achievement of universal access to quality healthcare.

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Key Findings

The failed experiment of the May 2005 general election, through which Meles attempted to create a multi-party democracy in Ethiopia, resulted in the creation of the current political system in the country. The May 2005 general election was, by far, the greatest political defeat for Meles in his career as leader of Ethiopia.

    How to apply research

    Civic associations in Ethiopia must be empowered so that they can give more influence on health policies in Ethiopia & help neglected groups that do not have a voice
    Foreign aid directed to civic associations is necessary to amplify their political power and participation
    Policy that allows civic associations to participate in policy making process, and governmental funding to these groups

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      About this research

      56th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association
      This research was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

      Recommended for

      About this research

      56th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association
      This research was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

      Recommended for

      What findings means

      This paper discusses ways in which government policy influences the welfare of people in regards to primary healthcare.

      The role of the state is crucial to improve the health of the population- it is very important for robust civic movement & participation of civic organisations to ensure that no one is left behind.

      Ethiopia in the 2010s was a developmental state- rapidly growing government-led economy. However the government was dominated by a de facto single party system- opposition parties and civil groups were weak and oppressed by the government.

      In this time of economic growth, policies such as the Ethiopia health extension program and increased education of girls contributed to primary health improvement- life expectancy increased from 45 to over 60 year old. However, minority groups were left behind and forgotten by the government. Civil society and civic associations were oppressed and excluded from the policy decision making process.

      The Charities and Societies Proclamation in 2009 restricted NGOs and CSOs that received more than 10% of their revenues from foreign sources from participating in most advocacy activities. This has since been relaxed, but civic associations remain weak. Relaxing the restrictions is not enough, the government must provide financial support as well.

      Ethiopia needs more democratic processes and robust civic movement to prevent these groups from being left behind.


      Reviewed policies of the Ethiopian government over the early 2010s. But there was a specific focus on primary health care policies, rather than other sectors


      Developmental State
      A nation experiencing rapid government-led economic growth
      Civil Society
      The collective term for non-governmental and civic society organisations that operate separately from governmental bodies to contribute to societal development
      Civic associations
      Organised groups of citizens working for collective action on community affairs

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      Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

      Nishi, M. (2013). ‘Problems and Possibilities of Democratic Developmentalism in Ethiopia’ [Conference presentation paper]. The 56th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, Baltimore, MD, United States