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Africa is No Longer a Place to Pity — It is a Place to Make Money


Ethiopian model/entrepreneur Bethlehem Alemu

British Prime Minister David Cameron has restated his promise of keeping up Britain’s foreign aid bill.

In the next year a whopping £12billion, 0.7 per cent of GDP, will go to overseas development – at a time of huge cuts at home.

Former Defence Minister Gerald Howarth yesterday slated the move, saying: “I don’t think it’s correct that we should ringfence overseas aid and see it continue to increase in amount at the same as we are cutting our Armed Forces.”

But do countries such as Ethiopia, which gets the lion’s share of British aid, still need such continued hefty handouts?


Poverty still exists here, but forget the Live Aid images of dust, flies and famine – Ethiopia is rising from the ashes FAST.

And it is thanks to a growing economy and investment rather than huge handouts.

Supermodel Liya Kebede, 34, who has graced the cover of US Vogue several times, is among the prolific entrepreneurs emerging from the country.

Her online fashion range, Lemlem, is made in Addis Abba and its £160 dresses and £100 scarves quickly sell out.

Another businesswoman is Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, who owns footwear firm soleRebels.

She is suspicious of the long-term effects of the vast aid promised by politicians such as David Cameron.

Mum-of-three Bethlehem, 32, explains: “In Ethiopia we have become used to taking money from the West, to always getting help.

“That does not make for a sustainable economy. We need to solve our own problems.

“I grew up in a small village watching charities bringing in aid but it didn’t change anyone’s life.

“The future for Ethiopia is in the jobs we are creating, not your aid.”

She set up soleRebels seven years ago. She now employs 100 full-time staff making 800 pairs of shoes a day, sold online.

Her success is challenging preconceptions about the best way to lift Ethiopia out of poverty.

Minister of Industry Mekonnen Manyazewal said: “We have been very grateful for what we’ve been given and have invested it wisely. But ultimately, trade and investment is our exit strategy from aid. We are open to all investment, particularly from the UK.

“But China is more aggressive in taking opportunities. And now we have interest from the USA.”

Ethiopia, synonymous with famine since Bob Geldof’s Live Aid in 1984, is no longer a place to pity — it is a place to make money.

Of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world, seven are African and Ethiopia is one of them.

Even Prince Harry’s favourite polo gloves are made here from Ethiopian leather by UK-based firm Pittards. A tannery in Nazret employs 700 while 450 more jobs have been created in a glove factory in Addis Ababa.

Pittards boss Reg Hankey says: “We now see ourselves as an Ethiopian company with British people involved. Ethiopia is still fragile but it’s growing.”


The Department for International Development gave £171.5million to Nigeria to help improve education there, as well as family planning and immunisation services.

This could be a welcome relief in a country where the majority of the population still earn less than £1 a day. But critics worry about how much of this money was lost to corruption.

They also point out that Nigeria is one of the world’s major oil suppliers, pumping out about 2.2million barrels per day. GDP is $413.4billion (£256billion), ranking Nigeria the 30th largest in the world and second in Africa.

And with the economy growing they are expected to join the top 20 by 2025.


By; Sharon Hendry 

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