By Chris Zumani Zimba
Following a unanimous approval by Ethiopia’s parliament on 16th October 2018 of the cabinet nominations put forward by reformist Prime Minister (PM), Abiy Ahmed, the Addis Ababa government made history both in Ethiopia and Africa to have 50% women appointed as Cabinet Ministers including the country’s first woman defense minister. “Our women ministers will disapprove the old adage that women can’t lead…This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa,” PM Abiy defended his decision. The Addis Ababa strongman did not just appoint 50% of women into his cabinet, but he also reduced his cabinet from 28 posts to 20 posts, a rare and bold policy decision especially in Africa where political appeasements are often achieved through appointing massive political followers into cabinet.
If he continues and sustains this good governance signature, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister will certainly become a ripe candidate after leaving office to receive the prestigious annual Mo Ibrahim Governance Award. Currently, only the African Union (AU) comes close to Ethiopia in terms of gender parity. In January this year, H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, reported that, “the African Union is the first inter-governmental organization that made parity a reality at higher decision-making levels with the placement of women in management positions in the Commission between 2013 and 2017 improving from 29% to 45% at directorship level”.
The Ethiopian PM is walking the gender equality talk far ahead of goal number 15 of the ‘Agenda 2063’ of the AU which envisages “full gender equality in all spheres of life” with four key targets of: (1) equal economic rights for women, including the rights to own and inherit property, sign a contract, register and manage a business and own and operate a bank account by 2025; (2) ensure 90% of rural women have access to productive assets, including land, credit, inputs and financial services by 2030; (3) 50% of all elected officials at local, regional and national levels are women 2030; (4) at least 50% of management positions in government and private sector are held by women by 2030. While many African countries have legal frameworks guaranteeing seats for women in Parliament, only 10 such as Rwanda or Somalia so far have achieved the 30% AU, ECOWAS, SADC or EAC target while the rest are below.
The 42-year-old PM took office in April 2017 after months of anti-government protests and made pledges that include free and fair elections, inclusive governance, political stability and economic reforms. In just a few months in power last year, Mr Abiy lifted the state of emergency, ordered the release of thousands of prisoners, allowed dissidents to return home and unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels. This year and particularly after June 2018, he has also ended decade of interstate war with Eritrea by agreeing to give up disputed border territory, signing a peace treaty, opening up the border, air space, trade routes and embassies with the long-time foe. All these political, diplomatic and economic reforms sets PM not only aside and different from many African leaders, but indeed distinguished.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a Political Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant
References and Bibliography
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