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Free market economy, ‘developmental state’ and party-state hegemony in Ethiopia: the case of the ‘model farmers’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2012

René Lefort*
44 rue Louis Rolland, 92120 Montrouge, France


Ethiopia's development strategy rests on the promotion of a market economy, driven by ‘new entrepreneurs’, both urban and rural, while, to bring it to ‘maturity’ and to compensate for its present ‘failures’, the resolute intervention of a ‘developmental state’ is essential. Simultaneously, the ruling party aims to sustain its political hegemony by enrolling massively among those at the top of the social pyramid, to which most of these ‘new entrepreneurs’ belong, so as to build its new constituency on them. In the rural areas (83% of the population), the merger of these two objectives leads to the mobilisation of the upper group of smallholder farmers, recruited both as ‘model farmers’ to become the engine for the growth, notably with the support of a massive public Agricultural Extension Programme, and also as members of the ruling party. However, the subordination of the regime's economic objectives to its political agenda undermines the implementation of its development strategy at the field level. This raises questions about the efficiency of the programme and the room left for entrepreneurship, even though this is a mainstay of the market economy that the regime sees as ‘vital’ for Ethiopia's ‘survival’ (Meles 2006).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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