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Ethiopia Today 

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Ethiopia Today

Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries today. According to the World Factbook, Ethiopia’s per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1999 was only $560, compared to $33,900 per capita in the United States.  It is very hard for me to comprehend making only $500 dollars a year, since I’ve grown up in a place where I was fortunate to have so much more.  Ethiopia’s budget in 1999 projected $1 billion in revenues compared to $1.48 billion in expenditures.  With the country spending about $480 million more than they are making (when they are not making very much compared to larger countries), it is no surprise that they are in such bad financial shape.

The economy of this country relies heavily on agricultural earnings.  In fact, agriculture is responsible for half of the GDP, 90% of exports, and 80% of employment.  It seems amazing that a country can count so much on one industry, since here in the United States we are the leading industrial power in the world, and have an infinite number of employment opportunities (including, but not limited to, electronics, steel, motor vehicles, telecommunications, and aerospace).  Besides agriculture, other prominent industries in Ethiopia include food processing, textiles, chemicals, and metal processing.  Out of Ethiopia’s 1,221,480 square kilometers of land, 60% of the cultivated land is used as cropland.  However, the use of some land is prevented by water shortages, infestations of disease-causing insects (mainly mosquitoes), and inaccessibility.  For example, the existence of malaria in Ethiopia’s low lands kept farmers from settling there in the past. 

Most of the agricultural farmers live in Ethiopia’s high lands, while the low lands are used for raising livestock. According to Encarta's online encyclopedia, in 1999, Ethiopia’s livestock population consisted of 36 million cattle, 22 million sheep, 17 million goats, 55 million poultry birds, and smaller numbers of horses, mules, donkeys and camels.  Approximately one-third of the cattle are oxen used for heavy labor while they sheep and goats are raised mainly for their skins and meats.

Ethiopia primarily exports agricultural products and imports consumer and capitol goods.  In the late 1990s, Ethiopia’s exports equaled $607 million while the imports exceeded that, costing the country $1,434 million.  The country’s most valuable foreign exchange earner, coffee, made up about two-thirds of those exports.  Some other exports important to Ethiopia include hides and skins, fruits and vegetables, pulses, and oil seeds.  Germany, Japan, and Italy are the leading purchasers of exports, while the main suppliers of imports are the United States, Japan, Jordan, and Italy. 

After 1974, restructuring attempts were made in an attempt to strengthen Ethiopia's economy. According to the Library of Congress, many of the country’s industries and financial institutions were put under the government's control.  The changes that were made helped to deal with some urgent problems, including food and consumer goods shortages, a lack for foreign exchange, and rising unemployment, while they failed to move the country much closer to attaining any long-term financial goals. In 1999, Ethiopia's government instated a tax that would help to raise money for war; however these taxes only seem to be hurting an already weak economy.  While there have been a few short-term improvements, Ethiopia’s economy has failed to get much better, since they still remain one of the poorest countries in the world.  Hopefully in the near future, more reforms will be introduced that will help improve the condition of the economy in this country.

To me, the picture we have chosen shows just how different the Ethiopia is from the United States; it almost seems like a whole different world to me.  For the past 19 years, I have lived in a place where I always had a roof over my head, a nice warm bed, a closet full of clothes, and never had to miss a meal. If you look at our picture, even though this person may be dead, he/she is not much more than skin and bones. All of Salgado's pictures in "An Uncertain Grace" show things that I had never given much thought to until I opened the book. The pictures are all very emotional because they are real people in real situations. This is the closest I have come to many of these situations, and while I may not know exactly what the photographed people are feeling, when I look into their eyes, it makes me think of things that have happened to me, and I am able to relate to them on some level.

if you want to learn more about Ethiopia, visit the Library of Congress

information taken from Encarta, World Factbook, Library of Congress