This book sets out with the question why Ethiopia – a country with one of the oldest still existing state-formations in the world and a farming population that has domesticated a number of indigenous food products, including coffee, oilseeds and Eragrostis teff - remains one of the poorest in the world.
To answer this question the authors review the history of Ethiopia from the earliest centuries A.D. until the 21st century dispelling a number of prevalent myths in the process. The book covers topics such as ethnicity (a hot issue in today’s Ethiopian politics), international relations with especially Britain and Italy, and the country’s lack of technical and economic progress. A survey of the current situation in Ethiopia sets the scene for comparisons with other countries. An examination of the history of “the West” illustrates how the “autonomy of intellectual inquiry” could promote a spiral of knowledge, pave the way for the Industrial Revolution and allow western countries to attain the highest standard of living in the world. A review of some East Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) exemplifies how they could “catch-up” with the West. Against the backdrop of these studies, the authors find the basic causes for Ethiopia’s poverty to be “missed” or “messed-up” opportunities to adopt available scientific knowledge and technology. Premising that a “decent” living standard, a “catch-up”, should be the only reasonable goal also for Ethiopian citizens, the authors propose that the country must emphasize promotion of a) knowledge and information (rather than focusing numbers of school children and schools) and of b) entrepreneurship in all economic sectors. To boost these requirements successfully, the authors argue that all involved in the present development agenda need to think “outside the box” and reassess at least two common assumptions about Ethiopia’s future namely, that only heavy-handed state “guidance” can bring about rapid development and that peasants and pastoralists are ignorant and must be told what to do.