The Future of Ethiopia: Developmental State or Political Marketplace?

Today’s changes in Ethiopia are rapid, confusing and disruptive. They promise openness and democratization, but also contain perils. This paper draws on two prisms through which to make sense of the situation: the ‘democratic developmental state’ as articulated by Meles Zenawi in a series of discussions with Alex de Waal between 1988 and 2012, and de Waal’s formulation of the ‘political marketplace.’

The rationale for this paper is that these two frameworks, the developmental state and the political marketplace, offer analytical insights that are important for understanding Ethiopia today.

This paper has two parts. The first is based on conversations with Meles, and addresses themes of the developmental state, democracy and nationalism, and foreign policy and security strategy.

The second part asks questions relevant to Ethiopians today. de Waal deploys the conceptual vocabulary of the developmental state and the political marketplace, to point to some lessons that might be learned and applied.

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