Why is Ethiopia poor even though it was never colonized?

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,358
Benin City, Nigeria
#21
Substantially I agree with you. Anyway there was a "first time" ... when the Europeans arrived. If they [we, I'm not going to play the role of the angel] were able to colonize those African countries ... we should wonder why.
Sure, I agree that we should look at why. If one looks at the case of France vs. Samori's state, the French were stronger as a result of having better guns, not necessarily better tactics or training (Yves Person argued in his biography of Samori that if Samori's troops had been as well equipped as the French, the Samorian army wouldn't have lost, so the difference in weapons was probably the main thing), but the best option would have been for Samori's forces to try to ally with other states in the region to try to partially make up for the disparity in weapons that existed. They tried to forge alliances twice: the first time by allying with the ruler of the Tukulor empire, but the French became aware of the alliance and moved to isolate the Tukulor ruler and defeat him before the alliance could bring any substantive results (before a combined army could be formed), and in the second instance the Samorians tried to ally with Asante, but for some reason the two states were not able to work things out and come to a definite agreement. Being too divided (not forming effective alliances in time) and having poorer quality guns are two big factors in that particular case.

Ethiopia on the other hand, was of course able to get good quality, modern (at the time) weapons in substantial quantities beforehand.
 
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robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,714
Lisbon, Portugal
#22
It's a matter of fact it hadn't colonized and that the European powers had forced to decide to recur to "soft colonialism" which actually wasn't colonialism. An economical control is not colonialism [it's today that there is something talking about "new colonialism"].
It's not colonialism, but the ends are still the same. The country's resources and its sovereignty was at the mercy of foreign powers, and those foreign powers maintain their control through coercion.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,714
Lisbon, Portugal
#23
Lack of resources.
It's very difficult to build up info structure if the vast majority of the population are surviving on land only fit for subsistence farming.
If that was the case, South Korea, Singapore or Finland wouldn't have prosperous economies. The reason for why Ethiopia didn't build any strong economy and a prosperous society is because they didn't built the right political and socio-economic institutions. They were not colonized, but its ruling elites managed their own country as similar to an European country managing an African colony.
 
Apr 2017
550
Lemuria
#24
I don't understand why people still avoid the obvious (political correctness is absurd when it is in the way of progress). True colonialism was harmful because it disrupted an ancient social order but the real issue is the lack of human resource (low human potential), not of resource per se. Why constantly avoid this and not find an answer to this problem by restructuring the leadership so that only the competent can rule? It's actually a simple problem. Dissolve the democratic system and create a high council where the most competent of this society is in charge. Create a secondary larger pool of talent to cycle in and out the council to prevent a dictatorship. The people of lower human potential are to be controlled in every way without being tyrannical. Their breeding controlled and tasks assigned to them through repetition training. Why is this so taboo? The lower group will act as a reservoir of diversity nd any talent that arouses there is harvested into the higher tier group. A democracy is only designed for high potential human beings while a dictatorship (a monarchy is included in this category) leads to abuses of power or a defective moron in charge through nepotism or inheritance. Both are equally undesirable. Democracy in places like India, Africa and even the US is a form of absurd demagoguery.
 
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holoow

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
3,642
Vilnius, Lithuania
#25
Which is the relation between a colonial past and being a poor or a rich country? It's obvious that it's not easy to colonize a rich or powerful country ... Europeans have never been able to colonize China, just to say ... it was to poweful. The colonial Empires colonized weak countries [at least weaker than them].
Because West is blamed for poverty in Africa.
 
May 2018
60
On earth.
#27
Lots of recent conflict aswell. It seems to be ignored that Ethiopia was a part of a large amount of conflicts in recent years, some of which relate directly to the colonial past, even if they themselves were not the ones being colonized, along with proxy wars during the cold war against Somalia.
 
Apr 2018
355
Upland, Sweden
#28
If that was the case, South Korea, Singapore or Finland wouldn't have prosperous economies. The reason for why Ethiopia didn't build any strong economy and a prosperous society is because they didn't built the right political and socio-economic institutions. They were not colonized, but its ruling elites managed their own country as similar to an European country managing an African colony.
This is a good point, but to be fair it is quite difficult for the poor Solomonic dynasty to just "build" these things. What the hell were they supposed to do, just magically integrate (to name a few "institutions") the rule of law, modern capital markets, technology and the academic/scientific infrastructure to somehow match the West - as well as the change in mental attitutdes necessary to handle all of this - in an era in which all of these things only recently appeared in the West to begin with?

That being said, I think there is a case to be made (which perhaps is what you're saying) that Haile Selassie and the later Emperors could have tried to reform the county more effectively than they did. The real question is why they didn't - was it contingent, or was it for more long term structural reasons? Compare Ethiopia with say Japan - what are the major differences? I can think of a few (culture, geography, ethnic division - even the Italian occupation - etc.) that might have played a role.
 
Apr 2018
355
Upland, Sweden
#29
Sure, I agree that we should look at why. If one looks at the case of France vs. Samori's state, the French were stronger as a result of having better guns, not necessarily better tactics or training (Yves Person argued in his biography of Samori that if Samori's troops had been as well equipped as the French, the Samorian army wouldn't have lost, so the difference in weapons was probably the main thing), but the best option would have been for Samori's forces to try to ally with other states in the region to try to partially make up for the disparity in weapons that existed. They tried to forge alliances twice: the first time by allying with the ruler of the Tukulor empire, but the French became aware of the alliance and moved to isolate the Tukulor ruler and defeat him before the alliance could bring any substantive results (before a combined army could be formed), and in the second instance the Samorians tried to ally with Asante, but for some reason the two states were not able to work things out and come to a definite agreement. Being too divided (not forming effective alliances in time) and having poorer quality guns are two big factors in that particular case.

Ethiopia on the other hand, was of course able to get good quality, modern (at the time) weapons in substantial quantities beforehand.
I'm not sure I find this supposed division between tactics and technology convincing. You can do different things with modern weapons than you can with older ones, and I also have a really hard time believing the Samori's forces (even though I don't doubt for a second you are more well read on this issue than I am) to be as well trained as the french, who were a professional army after all. To me this sounds like a biographer's wishful thinking - no doubt the man was impressive though, I had never heard of him until now but he certainly seems that way.

Anyway, your comparison with Ethiopia seems to indicate that organization and the institutions available to utilize technology effectively is more important than technology itself, at least that's my reading of it.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,358
Benin City, Nigeria
#30
I'm not sure I find this supposed division between tactics and technology convincing. You can do different things with modern weapons than you can with older ones, and I also have a really hard time believing the Samori's forces (even though I don't doubt for a second you are more well read on this issue than I am) to be as well trained as the french, who were a professional army after all. To me this sounds like a biographer's wishful thinking - no doubt the man was impressive though, I had never heard of him until now but he certainly seems that way.

Anyway, your comparison with Ethiopia seems to indicate that organization and the institutions available to utilize technology effectively is more important than technology itself, at least that's my reading of it.
Samori's army was a professional army. There is some information about his state's army in this article. While they could levy additional men as needed, the state did have a permanent standing army of regular soldiers. Although the praise for the quality of Samori's troops in some French sources would have to be viewed critically - with the understanding that some of the French officers might naturally praise their opponent in order to highlight the capability and skill of the enemy that they were able to defeat, and thereby highlight their (the French officers') own competence and ability - the admiration really does seem genuine. Plus, there is also the simple fact that the French did not heap such praise on the soldiers or warriors of just any African group that they fought and defeated, even though different French officers campaigned against numerous states and peoples in west and central Africa over a period of more than half a century.

The notion that Samori's forces were mostly just outgunned doesn't really come from Yves Person in particular. Even before his massive study (I called it a biography earlier, but perhaps "study" might be a more appropriate description) of Samori's empire was published, it was already well understood that the French had had better weaponry overall - Samori wasn't able to acquire artillery in any substantial quantity for example.

The case of Ethiopia is unique in that they were able to build up a very substantial arsenal of modern weapons by buying large quantities of them from Europeans well before there was any plan to attack and permanently conquer their state by a European power. In Samori's case, the smaller amount of modern weapons that he could buy (through Sierra Leone, then a British colony) came to an end in 1892 after the British and French reached an agreement that the sale of guns to Samori through the British colony of Sierra Leone would end (Samori's empire did manufacture some of its own firearms, but the loss of access to more modern firearms through Sierra Leone did put them at a disadvantage). The Ethiopians didn't really have that problem at any point; they had been buying such weapons (in huge quantities) long before any conflict with the Italians. The opportunities to purchase modern weapons for the two states had always been quite different. There is some information about the nature of Ethiopia's acquisition of firearms in the late 19th century in this book (there is a bit more to it than what is discussed there but that gives a good outline).

I did get a bit off-topic of course, but really I meant to highlight with my earlier comment that another state supposedly being "weak" (unlike Ethiopia) isn't really always an accurate description of the main difference that existed between Ethiopia and some other states when it came to resisting foreign occupation. Some other (non-Ethiopian) states just had completely different (worse) opportunities for acquiring weapons from the start. Yes, there certainly were numerous states in Africa (or elsewhere in the world) that were simply weaker than the Ethiopian empire, period. Weaker in organization, quality of soldiers, leadership, diplomatic ability, strategy, unity, ambition, and so on. I wouldn't disagree with that. But in other cases (and Samori's empire is definitely one of those cases) the real differences lay in one or two things that were far more simple and straightforward, such as opportunities to purchase better weapons.
 

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