Ethiopia: Making Diplomacy Effective in Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy … –


Diplomacy in Ethiopia is dominated by higher government officials (the prime minister and the foreign minister) sometimes called summit diplomacy. However, given the increasing importance of Ethiopia at the international level in so many respects and the importance of diplomacy to Ethiopia’s foreign policy, diplomacy should be made effective instrument of foreign policy.

In order for diplomacy to shoulder that responsibility of being a better instrument of the country’s foreign policy, it should be institutionalised. This includes strengthening existing institutions, establishing new language and research institutes, encouraging meritocratic and professional career system in the area of diplomacy. It should also includes working on business diplomacy and working on improving coordination are areas for improvement to make diplomacy effective tool of foreign policy.

Foreign policies making institutions and diplomatic institutions and institutions in general in Ethiopia are weak and cannot perform to the extent required. So, strengthening institutions should be the first priority to make diplomacy effective instrument of foreign policy. It should be equipped with state-of-the-art logistics and human power. Diplomacy is an affair of diverse ministerial posts. It is done by different domestic institutions as diplomacy is subservient to domestic policy. Ethiopia’s foreign policy at the heart of which is economic diplomacy is the business of different ministries.

Foreign direct investment in agriculture is the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, hospitals the Ministry of Health, foreign trade the Ministry of Trade, finance mobilisation the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation. This illustrates that diplomacy in Ethiopia is not a one stop-shop of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the office of the prime minister.

That being the case, the institutions sometime fail to have the basic skills of diplomatic communications, concepts of diplomacy, protocol and etiquette, international relations, and languages of international communications.

Those knowledge and skill aspects of diplomacy are important ingredients for all institutions which are involved in diplomacy. So, Ethiopia needs to work on strengthening its institutions in terms of human capital and logistics. The international system is getting along in the state of global and national dynamism which requires dynamic, voracious, vibrant, multilingual diplomats who could cope with such dynamism. Working on improving and strengthening institutions should be a priority to make diplomacy a better instrument of foreign policy.

Diplomacy at its preliminary conception means communication. And communication implies knowing a language and being well versed in the “lingua franc” of diplomacy. To that end language institutes plays irreplaceable role. Ethiopia’s diplomacy and importance is growing which means that the country is interacting with almost all important international stockholders in order to reap the fruit of its interaction. The best way to do that is communication and particularly diplomatic communication.

So, language is found to be indispensable in the realm of diplomacy and so does in Ethiopia’s diplomacy. Ethiopia lacks both multilingual diplomats and institutes and schools to produce such multilingual diplomats who are well versed in the lingua franc of diplomacy. So, in order to make Ethiopia’s diplomacy a better instrument of the country’s foreign policy, the opening of language schools and institutes should be a priority.

Professionalism seems more appropriate to diplomacy than to other fields. Diplomacy is a delicate process requiring diverse knowledge and skill. Diplomacy as a field of study wants to be both science and art; it wants to have its cake and eat it too. This is an indication of the delicacy of diplomacy in practice too. It is only professional diplomats that could cop such complexity and delicacy.

That being said, Professionalism is lacking in Ethiopian diplomacy. According to some commentators even the ministers are lacking that technocratic and meritocratic flavour. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is one of the institutions that lack professionalism in Ethiopia” (Merara, EBC political parties Debate, May, 2015).

The question of professionalism is a top priority in making Ethiopia’s diplomacy a better instrument of the country’s foreign policy. The country is working to establish institutions that solve the problem to some extent. The two institutions that are assumed to bring about professionalism are the School of Diplomacy and International Relations and Foreign Service Institute, both of which are located in the Ethiopian Civil Service University.

Working to scale up those institutions in terms of human power and logistics may be important to make diplomacy crucial instrument of Ethiopia’s foreign policy. Without professional staff functioning within an organisation, policy implementation would not be satisfactory. It is essential that qualified professionals be deployed in an organised manner. Qualified personnel need to be capable of carrying out studies and assessments in the areas of foreign and national security policies, threat analysis, and implementation strategies for these policies. They are expected to elaborate and implement a plan designed to make the policies effective (Ministry of Information, FDRE, 2002:51-52).

The activities of foreign affairs need dynamic, multilingual and smart diplomat, researcher and communicator. The ministry lacks, however, this kind of professionals. The role of professional diplomats is quite minimal and thin. Therefore, professionalism should be a prior recommendation to make diplomacy a better instrument of Ethiopia’s foreign policy.

Economic diplomacy is at the centre of Ethiopia’s diplomacy. The country, however, lacks professional diplomats on business diplomacy, stressing the urgency of training diplomats on the areas of business diplomacy. The country has been is hot to a large number of foreign direct investors and companies. Ethiopia still needs to increase the number of FDI companies.

That needs deep and wide knowledge of business diplomacy of the 21st century. The best way to do that is to consistently train diplomats in Ethiopian missions and ministerial posts on the area of business diplomacy. Each diplomat deployed abroad is expected to know each and every law, regulations, proclamations on, incentives for foreign direct investments.

Lack of or little knowledge on business diplomacy has been a problem in recruiting investors and negotiating on terms of investment. The distribution of investment in Ethiopia is concentrated in Addis Ababa followed in long distance by Oromia Regional State. FDI distribution gets smaller as it distances from Addis Ababa.

So, unequal distribution of investment may be result from the lack of knowledge of business diplomats. According to staff of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who prefers to remain anonymous, many of the pre-investment visits of FDI did not enter into an operation and implementation stage simply because some of them are not professionally handled “We do not know how to follow up on them” (Conversation with the Writer, June,2015). These issues are litmus tests to the need for training diplomats on business diplomacy to make diplomacy a better instrument of Ethiopia’s foreign policy.

The importance of ministerial coordination is of no question to make diplomatic activities effective and efficient. That being the case, lack of coordination is identified to be a problem in the process of foreign policy decision. The Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS) commands the importance of ministerial coordination and particularly the indispensability of coordinating the works of ministry of foreign affairs, defence and security with economic and social institutions and ministries.

Government ministries and institutions that are directly or indirectly concerned with foreign and national security affairs should coordinate their work. In addition, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Security should coordinate their work with ministries and institutions in the economic and the social sector in view of the fact that the economy is central for diplomatic work.

It is of utmost priority for these ministries to develop their manpower, their organisational structure and procedures so that they are effective in carrying out their responsibilities, including the responsibilities of dealing with foreign affairs and security. Isolated efforts will not bring results. These institutions need to coordinate their work and reorganise themselves accordingly.

Diplomacy is decentralised and can happen at any ministerial post. But in order to know the aggregate effect of diplomacy it should be summed up. All of the ministerial posts working on diplomacy should operate as ‘one as all and all as one’. This is a call for coordination in order to make diplomacy a better instrument of Ethiopia’s foreign policy.

To sum up, working on strengthening institutions, training diplomats on business diplomacy, establishing language institutes, coordinating stakeholders, producing professional diplomats are identified to be indispensable areas to improve to make diplomacy a better tool of Ethiopia’s foreign policy.

Yohannes Gebeyehu Has a BA in Political Science and International Relations, Did His Graduate Degrees in Diplomacy and International Relations. His Areas of Research Interest Ranges Around Public, Foreign Policy and Institutional Underpinnings.

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