Mar 11 2013

Alex De Waal on Meles Zenawi: Ethiopian development in perspective

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 10:10 AM

Alex De Waal is among the most trenchant observers of African affairs and his new essay, “The Theory and Practice of Meles Zenawi,” carries revelatory force. In his article, De Waal tries to rescue Zenawi, who died last August, from an unfair assessment by critics of his role as Ethiopia’s prime minister and domineering political personality over the past quarter century. That Zenawi contradicted the neo-liberal concensus on economic development is de Waal’s starting point. He importantly highlights the possibility that Meles’s body of ideas represent “an authentically African philosophy of the goals and strategies of development.” How successful Meles was in promoting and managing development, alas, is not part of the essay’s scope. Meles deserves more attention as a thinker on African development; de Waal is right to highlight this basic truth. But what kind of development he achieved in Ethiopia, one of Africa’s growth stars in the 21st century, deserves more examination. The question of the extent to which Ethiopian development has reiforced or expanded inequality challenges those who will carry on the task of building on Meles’ various legacies, however defined. May de Waal expand his essay into a book on this intriguing, contradictory and essential political leader.

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