Was EPRDF's Ethiopia a "Developmental Patrimonial" State? A Critical Engagement

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Ethiopia was lauded for sustained fast economic growth for two decades under the
Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Some scholars framed the
regime’s political economy “developmental patrimonialism”, suggesting that EPRDF’s
Ethiopia is characterised by “long-horizon rent deployment” that allowed the EPRDF
regime to centralise rent for the greater good of entrenching the basis of development.
This paper takes interest in such a framing and shows the possible gap in Ethiopia’s
development narration. The paper revisits the story of Ethiopia’s economic growth that
may have obscured the concentration of economic and political power by the partystate
and its elites. It shows how the necessity of exploring the logic of the creation
of party-military conglomerates and the nature of the economy remains important to
understand what happened and persisted under the EPRDF regime. In this light, the
paper argues, the developmental facade of the regime has served the double purpose of
power concentration in the hands of the few and an apparent heroism for development
that feeds into sacrificing other rights on the altars of authoritarian development.
Methodologically, this paper takes a critical look at the economic growth and its
interpretations that took centre-stage in EPRDF’s political economy through research
conducted during the EPRDF era.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-26
JournalAfriche e Orienti
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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