Ethiopia’s Vanguard Capitalists

How the EPRDF Mobilizes for Economic Development

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 2015.  Siegfried Modola / REUTERS

This week, Ethiopia is commemorating its national day with an exhibition celebrating the country’s economic progress. More than 140 companies—some state-owned, some private—have set up displays in Millennium Hall, a conference center in Addis Ababa’s upscale Bole neighborhood. From a scale model of the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is still under construction, to displays of domestically assembled automobiles, the exhibition aims to show visitors just how much Ethiopia has changed since troops of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) overthrew the communist Derg regime 25 years ago, after a long and violent civil war.

The EPRDF's history as a revolutionary movement still shapes its approach to economic development.

Since it first took power in May 1991, the EPRDF has gone through several transformations—from a socialist liberation movement to a reluctant liberalizer to a self-styled “developmental regime” in the image of the East Asian

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